Storing Chips

What is the best way to store my chips?
What are flips?
What size flips should I order?
Can vinyl flips or binder pages damage my chips?
How should I store my flips?
What are coin tubes?
What are air-tights?
What size air-tight do I need?
What "special" storage options are available for my best chips?
Do they make cases that hold a large number of chips?
Do they make special chip binders?
What are chip wallets?

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What is the best way to store my chips?
First off, this is a very subjective question that will ultimately boil down to personal preference. I will offer you my opinion along with the reasoning behind it, but you may decide that another method is best for you. I store my chips in cardboard flips with mylar windows which in turn I insert into vinyl album pages that I store in albums.

I chose cardboard flips with mylar windows instead of the transparent vinyl flips. The vinyl flips that are nice and flexible contain PVC, which gives the vinyl its flexibility, but which also reacts with the inks in some chips and causes the ink to transfer to the inside of the flip. The ink can then can be transfered back onto the chip (or worse - onto another chip) as it rotates in the flip over time. This phenomenon is called "bleeding" can can ruin your chips (it is especially a problem with the red $5 chips). Now, there are non-PVC flips, but they tend to be brittle and crack if handled too roughly. To avoid the bleeding and brittleness, I chose the cardboard flips with the mylar windows. My chips are safe from bleeding and I don't have to handle them with kid gloves.

Some people staple the flips, but I like to be able to handle and touch the flips without having to ruin the flip, so another trick that I picked up from a club member is to seal my flips on the bottom corners with little white address labels that can be picked up at any office-supply store. This way, I can still remove the chips from the flips and handle them if I like.

I buy my albums at my local Sam's Supercenter. I can get a very nice and black nylon binder with a zipper (to keep anything from falling out) that will hold about 15 pages full of chips (roughly 180 chips). The binder also has all sorts of neat little zipper pouches and pen holders and even a notebook to keep up with my trades. It's very efficient to have when traveling to a trade meet. I can keep my business cards, address labels, envelopeps, stamps, etc. handy in there as well. Plus, it costs me all of $7 at Sam's, so with a dozen vinyl pages, the total for the binder comes to about $14.00.

Another plus about using the cardboard flips is that they fit very nicely into the long chip storage boxes when your collection grows to large to store in binders. The boxes are cheap as well - or you can even store the flips in boxes of your own because the flips will keep them nice and orderly inside.

Do they make special chip binders?
Yes. Several vendors offer "chip" binders that are basically a nice, padded binder with the words "Casino Chips" printed on the front and spine. These binders are designed to hold the three-ring binder pages that are in-turn specifically designed to hold casino chips. The binders typically cost about $20 and usually come stocked with 10 pages that hold 12-20 chips apiece.

Price-saving tip: while I'm sure these are high-quality binders, there is nothing in particular that separates them from your standard three-ring binders that you can pick-up at your local Wal-Mart. In fact, I prefer to buy my own three-ring binders at a store because I can typically get a nylon binder which, in my humble opinion, is more durable than vinyl. The binders I buy have a zipper that seals them and they typically are arrayed with all sorts of zipper pockets for storing my other supplies, business cards, and paraphenalia. These binders typically only cost me about $7 at Sam's Club, and once I add the cost of 10 binder pages (roughly $5), I've built my own "chip" binder for around $12. Plus, I've found that my nylon binders can hold about 15-20 chip pages comfortably as they expand easier than a vinyl binder.

Do they make cases that hold a large number of chips?
Yes. There are several varieties of cases available from aluminum to leather to vinyl to wood - your only limit is your budget. These cases usually hold anywhere from 300 to 500 chips although there are some 1000 chip models. The only concern you have with those is the possibility of the handle separating from the case due to the weigth of 1000 chips!

The main concern you should have with chip cases is the chips are not separated from touching each other and there exists the potential for them to mar or scuff one another. This is probably not a concern for used chips you intend to use as traders, but you might want to consider another transportation solution for your mint-condition chips.

What are chip wallets?
Chip, or coin, wallets are small vinyl albums that typically hold anywhere from 24 to 80 chips depending on their size. They are an econimical and efficient means to transport your traders to and from trade meetings. They typically run around $1.75 - $6 apiece depending on size.

How should I store my flips?
Flips are typically stored either in binders or flip boxes. The former offer the convenience of being able to view your chips much like viewing a photo album. The flip boxes on the other hand, allow you to store more chips in a small space and are more efficient and practical for those of you who don't have a lot of shelf space for chip albums. Also, flip boxes are more economical than binders. A typical 3-ring binder can cost you $5 to $10 easily (not including the price of the binder pages) and special "chip" binders typically run around $20. Flip boxes on the other hand typically run around $3 - $5 and usually includes the flips as well.

What "special" storage options are available for my best chips?
There are several varieties of special presentation cases that are excellent to showcase your most prized chips. Oak and cherry cases with velvet lining are available as well as velvet cases with silk lining. Pictured below are a few examples.

What are air-tights?
Air-tights are transparent plastic coin holders that hold a single coin. An air-tight consists of two halves that snap-together around a coin to form a snug, air-tight fit. Air-tights are great storage solutions to show-case your best chips, but tend to be pricey ($.35-$.50 each) so it can be cost-prohibitive to store your entire collection in them.

Air-tights come with or without the small foam ring used to surround the edge of and contrast a chip (see photo above). These foam rings typically do not contain PVC and are claimed to be safe for long-term storage. Air-tights without the foam ring are called "snug-fit" and are designed to perfectly fit a standard 39mm chip to prevent movement within the airtight.

Notice in the picture above that you can also purchase small stands for your air-tights to display them upright on your desk or shelves.

What are coin tubes?
Coin tubes are hard plastic tubes that can hold approximately 20 chips in a small space. The coins are tubular on the inside but are molded square on the outside to prevent rolling and allow stacking. When ordering coin tubes, you should order the 39mm, or "medallion" size.

Coin tubes are a good storage solution to store your many traders, but you should be aware that the chips are not separated from contact with each other in the tubes. As a result, if not handled properly, it's theoretically possible that the chips could mar each other. For well used or older chips, this may not be a concern, but you may want to think twice before storing your mint-condition chips in a storage tube.

What size flips should I order?
Flips are available in different sizes to accommodate different size chips. Your typical casino chip is 39mm in diameter (roughly 1.5 inches).

When ordering cardboard flips, you should order a 2.5"x2.5" flip with a 1.75" window. For Bacarrat chips or other larger chips, you should order the 2.5"x2.5" flip with a 2" window.

When ordering vinyl flips, you should order 2"x2" flips.

What are flips?
Flips are a protective storage solution for one or two chips and typically come in two varieties - cardboard or vinyl.

Cardboard flips are a small piece of cardboard scored along the middle with a chip-size cut-out on either half of the score line. The flip is lined with a piece of mylar film to form a window in each cut-out. You place a chip on the back of one side of the flip and fold the other half over onto it sandwiching the chip between the halves. You then seal the halves by stapling or taping the flip shut, and the chip can be viewed and protected at the same time. (I prefer to use small white sticker-tabs to tape the corners shut so that I can squeeze the flip and allow the chip to slide in and out so I can still handle it if I like).

Vinyl flips have one or two vinyl pockets into which a chip can be inserted. Single flips have one pocket with a flap that can be folded over to trap the chip inside while double flips have two pockets - one on each flap. Vinyl flips are good temporary storage solutions that prevent chips from banging against each other when shipping chips in bubble mailers.

Can vinyl flips or binder pages damage my chips?
Yes. Flips or binder pages made from vinyl that contains PVC can be destructive to some chips. PVC is added to vinyl to make it more supple and less brittle, however, over time (weeks? months?), it can react with the dyes in some chips and absorb them into the vinyl. As the chip rotates slightly in the flip or page over time, this dye can be transferred back onto the chip in other areas of a different color. The result is a ruined, smeared or mottled-looking chip. Red dyes seem to be particularly susceptible to this "bleeding" phenomenon, and you should probably consider an alternate long-term storage solution for your red chips. Below is an image a chip that bled and the flip that contained it. Notice how the red dye transferred onto the flip and then back onto the white surfaces of the chip.

There are binder pages and flips made from vinyl which does not contain PVC. You can request such pages/flips when ordering. If you have some vinyl pages/flips and are not sure if they contain PVC, test them by feeling and bending them. If they seem stiff or brittle, they probably don't contain PVC and are safe for use in storing your chips.

It should be noted that PVC-containing vinyl pages or flips are perfectly fine to hold your chips on a temporary basis. If you're going to a trade-meet and want to carry your traders in a binder with PVC-containing pages, you should experience no problems. Just don't forget to transfer them back to non-PVC products for long term storage.

What size air-tight to I need?
(Answer contributed by Tiny Treasures)
There are 4 main sizes of airtites used for our hobby, lets call them holders A, B, C, and D.

Holder A is 39mm, just like a chip. This holder is also manufactured with a slightly thinner wall (40mm) and a slightly thicker wall (38mm). This will handle chips that are slightly worn (38mm), regular chips (39mm), and chips that are slightly big (40mm)

Holder B is 45mm, which doesn't fit anything, but with the "ring" can fit the following:

Holder C is 47mm, which fits a $20/$40 Silver Strike Directly and the following with a ring:

Holder D is 43mm and is a direct fit for a $10 Strike.