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South Point welcomes annual Las Vegas gaming collectables convention.
Sheldon Smith is the education and publicity director for The Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club, Inc. There are many reasons why he gives so much time and attention to this group, but make no mistake—he’s a collector, too. “My wife and I have always enjoyed playing in the casinos but haven’t been able to win many chips,” he says. “So we decided to collect them instead.”
Smith and his wife will be joining other fanatics during the group’s 17th annual convention, June 24-27 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. There are 2,500 members in the U.S. with international membership reaching into Australia, Canada, England, the Far East, France, Germany, and Spain.
Collectors will be after more than just casino chips and gaming tokens. The show floor, open to the public, will display napkins, matchbooks, coasters, posters, and other items from casinos that are distant memories (think Showboat, Desert Inn, and Hacienda) and recently opened ones such as Encore Las Vegas and The Palazzo.
Smith says each club member has his or her own reason for collecting. “Many are not interested in gaming, per se, but are intrigued by the names of some of the casinos, or for that matter, casinos named after Nevada towns,” he explains. “A man whose last name was Gabbs was fascinated by all the gaming items he found with that name printed on them and eventually became an avid collector. I had an ashtray from Sharkey’s [Nugget] in Gardnerville and put it on eBay. A Mr. Sharkey bought it only because the ashtray had his name on it.”
Smith’s favorite story is about a woman who went to the Showboat in 1961 on her honeymoon and took home a $1 chip as a memento. On one side was the famous Showboat paddlewheel, and on the other was a picture of people on the gaming floor. Since casinos were smaller then, not many chips were made, and this one was unique. After returning home, she placed the chip in her jewelry box and rediscovered it 45 years later. She placed it on eBay and, in March 2008, sold it for $28,000. There is another story about a man who bought a 1950s $100 Sahara chip—with a pyramid on one side—for $100,000 because it was the only one of its kind still in existence.
Las Vegan Gene Trimble is a collector and avid historian who has written about illegal gaming and chips. He has personally collected more than 30,000—legally, of course. “I was already collecting coins when chips caught my attention,” he says. “The more I collected, the more history I discovered, and that really peaked my interest. Collecting chips or other gaming tokens and paraphernalia is taking a chance because someday someone may find a box of chips stashed away somewhere, and your one-of-a-kind becomes one of 100…or 1,000.”
What: The Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club Convention
When: June 24-27
Where: South Point Hotel & Casino
Keynote Speaker: Michael Gaughan, South Point owner
The Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club