Obtaining Chips

Are there really that many chips to collect?
How can I get chips at a casino?
Why can't I keep Roulette chips?
I don't live near a casino - how do I get chips to collect?
Are there trade meets where I can get chips?
Does the CC&GTCC have a convention where I can get chips?
Can I be notified when casinos issue new chips?
What's the easiest table game at which to get $1 chips?
Do people collect chips from other countries (International chips)?
I regularly see chips for sale in Uncirculated condition from casinos that closed 20-30 years ago. Are they legitimate? If so, how is this possible?

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Are there really that many chips to collect?
Yes. There are thousands of chips to collect. Before I started collecting chips, I thought there were a couple dozen casinos in Vegas, a handful in Atlantic City, and another handful scattered across the nation on Indian reservations. And it never occurred to me that a casino would produce more than one type of chip for each denomination - so that's come to maybe a couple hundred chips, right? I've never been more naive in my life. There are hundreds of casinos across the nation, and any given casino may produce dozens of different chips. They change "house" chips regularly and many produce Limited Edition chips for special events ranging from holidays to concerts - one even produced a chip to celebrate April 15th - Tax Day!

What this means is that there are thousands of chips out there to collect. I know a few chippers whose collections run in the 4000 - 5000 chip range, and have heard of others that have over 10,000 chips. Imaging trying to display all of those in your house!

How can I get chips at a casino?
(Contributions by Ralph Myers)
Depending on the state, you may be able to purchase chips directly at the Cashier's Window. In Nevada, there's no state law prohibiting it, so the each casino can decide their own policy - so if you're in Vegas, you should definitely approach the Cashier's Window first. In New Jersey on the other hand, state law prohibits the sale of chips at the Cashier's Window so you will definitely have to purchase them at a gaming table. If you're not sure of the state law, always ask at the Window - all they can do is direct you to a table. There are a couple of reasons for casinos not selling chips from the Window, not the least of which is that if you're buying chips at a table, you generally feel obligated to sit down and a least play a little at that table (thus giving the casino a shot at your money). Also, casinos like to keep the transactions one-way at the cashier's window for security reasons.

If you're required to buy your chips at a table, look for a table with chips of the denomination you're interested in - you don't want to sit down at a $5 table if you're hunting $1 chips.

Also, if you happen to be playing a cardgame such as Blackjack, look for a table that is approaching the end of the shoe. If you buy-in right before the end of the shoe, the re-shuffling of the shoe gives you the perfect opportunity to get up and leave the table without having played more than a hand or two.

If the casino is not crowded, I'll also seek an empty table with a dealer waiting for someone to play. I'll then simply explain that I collect casino chips and would they mind selling me the chips I want. I've always gotten good results like this because they're not busy and it breaks the monotony for them.

If you do buy-in at a table, be careful that you select the chips you want before you stand-up to leave the table - especially if the table is busy - because the dealer will likely ask you to "color-up" if you have very many chips at all. To "color-up" means to trade your $1 chips for $5 chips or your $5's for $25's, etc. They do this to keep from running out of their lower denomination chips. Believe the voice of experience - you don't want to be asked to color-up at a busy table if you haven't selected the primo chips out of your stacks before-hand. The other players will not appreciate the delay of watching you sort through your chips picking out specific chips, and you'll likely be the subject of several rude comments.

However, if you are lucky enough to find a casino that will allow you to purchase chips at the cage, purchase a "rack" of the chips you're hunting if you can afford to (a rack usually consists of 100 chips). Then you can take your rack to a casino restaurant or bar and sit and sort through the chips at your leisure selecting the primo chips. Then, when you're done, return the remainder and cash them in to get the balance of your money back.

Why can't I keep Roulette chips?
(Contributions by Pam G., Richard Fellman, and Marc Heiman)
Roulette chips can only be purchased at a roulette table and it is against casino rules to remove roulette chips from the table. This is because a roulette chip is not a cheque - it does not have a denomination printed on it. Unless you specifically buy-in at a higher amount, your chips at a roulette table have the value that is determined by the amount of the minimum bet of the table. Furthermore, this minimum bet is subject to change from night to night, or even shift to shift. That is to say that during off-peak hours, a roulette table may allow minimum bets of $1, but later that same day, during peak hours, the minimum bet may be raised to $5. Now, assume you were at a casino in the morning playing at a $1 roulette table and were allowed to leave with your chips. You could then return that evening with those same chips when the table is now $5 minimum and the chips that you bought for $1 apiece are now valued at $5 each. It's easy to see why the casino doesn't allow this to happen.

That being said, it's not impossible to "harvest" roulettes from a roulette table if you've got the nerve for it. I just don't recommend it unless you're willing to face the consequences if you get caught.

I don't live near a casino - how do I get chips to collect?
(Answers contributed by Paul Sax)
The easiest way to obtain chips is directly from a casino. However, if you don't live within day-trip distance of a casino, and don't have the budget to travel to one for a weekend, the easiest way to collect chips is via the Internet. Regional trade meets are also a good way to collect chips, but they generally don't occur very frequently (maybe once every few months). You should definitely attend these if one is within driving distance for you, but if not, the Internet is your best bet.

You will find trades being offered daily on The Chip Board where dozens, if not hundreds, of chippers read the daily posts. Don't be afraid to post that you're a new chipper and are looking to purchase or trade chips. You may be lucky enough to find that there's a veteran chipper or two out there who is generous enough to send you a chip or two in the mail to help you get started.

You can also use your favorite search engine to search for "casino chips" and see how many chippers' home pages you get! Many many chippers post their trade lists and want lists online with hopes of people just like you contacting them wanting to make a trade. Here is a list of links to many chippers' sites to get you started.

There are also many commercial sites that will sell you casino chips and the supplies you'll need for your new hobby. These sites are the easiest places to find most any casino chip you're seeking, but they generally charge a premium price to cover their expenses and still make a profit. However, sometimes a commercial site is the only place you may be able to find that elusive chip you've been hunting and the price may be fair to save you the hours you would otherwise spend hunting. Here is a list of commercial sites to get you started.

Also, there are literally thousands of casino chip auctions on eBay and Jackpot Auctions. Casino chips even have their own category on eBay - "Collectibles/Coin-Op,Bank,and Casino/Casino/Chips", and Jackpot auctions is devoted entirely to casino collectibles! On these sites you can find chips of all kinds and all price levels - chips that sell for face, and chips that sell for thousands. As a general rule, you will pay a little over face plus a shipping and handling fee for the chips you purchase here. This is usually $2-3 for a $1 chip plus $1.50 - $3 shipping and handling - that's $3.50 - $6 for a $1 chip so be careful that you don't get caught up in a bidding war and that you understand how much the S&H charge is before you place your bid. Your better deals on eBay are going to be in chip "lots" - auctions for groups of chips where you can sometimes win the auction for the face value or a little over face value of the chips (say $10-$15 for a 10 chip lot) and only pay one S&H fee as opposed to ten.

Are there trade meets where I can get chips?
Yes. Often that's why local clubs were formed - to give members a chance to meet more frequently than the annual CC&GTCC Convention in Vegas. Visit your local clubs web site to see when their next meeting is.

Also, if you frequent The Chip Board, you will regularly see notices for meetings - usually as much as a month or two in advance. Also, there you will sometimes see impromptu posts by a member that is visiting a town and asking if anyone would like to meet while they're there. You'll soon find that your fellow chippers are a very friendly group with a family atmosphere and that spontaneous meetings like this are not uncommon - you'll even find yourself invited into many of the members' homes before you know it!

Does the CC&GTCC have a convention where I can get chips?
Yes. The premier event of each year is the CC&GTCC's annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hundreds of chippers and vendors gather here to trade and sell chips as well as to discuss topics of interest and just catch-up with old friends. It's an event that every chipper should try to attend at least once.

Can I be notified when casinos issue new chips?
Abolutely! There are several New Issue Services which revolve around the hobby. Each NIS monitors specific casinos and notifies its members when new chips become available. You can become a member of a service by subscribing to it.

When an NIS learns that a new chip is available, the travel to the casino and purchase a number of the chips. They then notify their members that they have them available for purchase. Each NIS charges a surcharge on top of the face value of the chip for their service and expenses. Expect to pay $3 or more for $1 chips and $7 or more for $5 chips.

New Issue Services provide a valuable service for those people who don't have convenient access to their favorite casinos, however, you can generally find a better deal if you can be patient and hunt for your chips. That being said,if you have a hard time finding a particular chip, or if you just have to have it right now, a NIS may be your best bet.

What's the easiest table game at which to get $1 chips?
Probably the easiest table game at which to obtain casino chips is Craps. You can lay $20-$40 on the table and ask for "10 White" or "20 White" or however many $1 chips you want. If the $1 chips are not white, make sure you adjust the color you request accordingly. After you get your chips, you can play, or walk away. If I walk away, I try to head toward the nearest rest room in case I'm questioned - I just say I'll be right back. Otherwise, depending on the number of $1 chips you purchased, they may ask you to Color-In and give you $5 chips for your $1 chips (not good if you're wanting the $1 chips).

Blackjack is another favorite game of mine, but unless a $3 table is open, you'll have a tougher time getting $1 chips - you basically have to win them by hitting a blackjack or you have to ask for them - and the latter will get you quizzical looks and they may refuse the request.

Do people collect chips from other countries (International chips)?
(Question contributed by Keith Murrey)
Yes. London, Puerto Rico, Monaco, etc. are all popular gambling locales from which great chips can be collected. Some of the most beautiful plaques and jetons are from abroad.

I regularly see chips for sale in Uncirculated condition from casinos that closed 20-30 years ago. Are they legitimate? If so, how is this possible?

Sometimes collectors come across an ex-casino owner or employee, or a relative of such a person that perhaps is deceased, and they discover that the person has a forgotten hoard of obsolete chips from Way Back When. Often, when the person finds out what they're worth, they're glad to sell them to the collector, who may in turn offer them to the collecting community.

In the words of Archie Black...
"Other than the occassional "find" of a fogotten hoard of obsolete chips from a former casino owner ... or from a relative or partner of a living or deceased casino owner ... the obvious reason (to me) is that there are those so-called "greedy" dealers (and old-time collectors) who put aside chips as they are issued in their inventory and stock books (sometimes for decades) so that new chippers (like yourself) and experienced chippers (who are working their way back to the earlier issues) are able to obtain nice, new condition older chips."