'Notorious' casino chips sell for $1m

There's finally a way to beat the bank at Casinos... by collecting casino chips.

On Monday, an eBay seller incredibly made $1,000 for a single $25 chip from the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas.

Why did it sell for so much? Answer: it was a vintage chip.

Last week, for instance, a $1 chip for the Alpine Club in Nevada - which operated between 1944-55 - brought its seller $455.

Elsewhere, a 50¢ chip from the Mint Pan Room in Las Vegas sold for $400.

The previous day, a bidder offered $320 to win a $25 chip from the 1930s Town House casino in Reno, Nevada, which was destroyed by a blaze started by its leaseholder in 1955.

"You need to be quite selective in the chips you collect if you want to do it as an investment - or be prepared to hang onto them long, long term," says Michael Behiel, a collector from Regina, talking to The Financial Post.

The value of Mr Behiel's 1,200-chip hoard has tripled in value over the last 10 years, he says.

"I tried for a while to do flips for profit and found that most of the mainstream chips around today are far too common to even break even on."

Unlike stocks and shares, which are all about money and profit, casino chip collectors - many ardent gamblers themselves - cherish what they own for the stories and history attached.

For chip collectors, rarity and condition are also crucial factors.

A set of five rare Lilly Belle $25 chips from the Black Hawk Casino in Colorado attracted 23 bids on eBay, selling for US$639.09. Only 45 of the chips were ever made in 1992.

Fascinatingly, the "notoriety" of the casino can add value to the chips. And notoriety and casinos often go hand-in-hand...

For instance, the Aladdin, Circus Circus, Desert Inn, Dunes, and El Cortez, for instance, were all owned by gangsters.

And casino chips, like other collectibles, has its "holy grails"...

In October, 2005, a huge collection of 6,600 casino chips and tokens, The Platinum Collection, many from casinos that closed between the 1930s to the 1950s, sold on eBay for an astonishing $1m.

Mr Behiel's collection includes a valued chip, inlayed with 24K gold flake. It is so valued because the its casino's 85 year-old owner, Leonard Schoen, died before it could be used.

Schoen's business associates were convicted felons, his children fought over his wealth and his daughter in-law was murdered - leading Schoen to commit suicide in 1999.

In 1947, Flamingo owner Bugsy Siegel was shot through a window; his successor at the Flamingo and his wife were murdered; and casino builder Tony "the Hat" Cornero died of suspected poisoning while at a craps table in 1955.

Whether its Schoen's suicide of Siegel's murder, notoriety and stories can boost the value of collector's chips.

Collectors generally trade with each other, exchanging chips they can get locally.

However, one risk for collectors is when a flood of chips from a long-closed casino will be released on the market.

"This certainly has a detrimental effect on the values," says Mr Behiel.

Asked if he was a gambler, Mr. Smith says: "My wife and I have a motto: Since we can't win them, we buy them!" he told the Financial Post.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock