It was mailed by Travis Anderson. Here is the article:
The Casino Boom
On Nov. 26, 1996, the Sands Casino in Las Vegas met its end in a blast of
dynamite and a cloud of dust, blown up to make way for an even more lavish
casino. At that moment, the value of casino chips from the defunct gambling
emporium exploded, too.
The casino boom, in every sense of the word, is spurring a boom in the value
of casino chips. The clay, plastic or metal disks used as money at casinos,
Indian reservations and riverboats from Reno to Monaco are now being "cashed
in" for amounts that dwarf their face value, sometimes thousands of dollars.
Nancy Clark, a Las Vegas accountant paid $725 for a trio of 1960s chips from
the Sands (face value: $130) in July. "The Sands has a marvelous history
with the Rat Pack [the famous quintet of performers that included Dean
Martin and Frank Sinatra]," she notes. "If these chips could talk, what a
fascinating story they could tell."
The sixth-annual convention of the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors
Club last month drew 90 dealers, up from 47 in 1997, says its vice
president, Janice O'Neal, a retired antiques dealer now living in Las Vegas.
"Most of the popular stuff is from the last 25 years," says Bob Mera, owner
of the Gaming Emporium, a memorabilia store in Atlantic City, N.J. "It's
something [buyers] can relate to."
Although hundreds of thousands of casino chips circulate inside a casino at
a time, very few ever get farther than the cashier. The circular chip, a
descendant of the seashells and animal knuckle-bones used for centuries as
stand-ins for cash, first appeared as scrimshaw-decorated ivory in the early
19th century. The popularity of riverboat gambling prompted ace players to
have their own chips made. Soon, casinos inaugurated house chips, usually
made of clay.
But it was the coming of the Las Vegas casino in the late 1940s that started
the renaissance of the casino chip. Each casino had its own ornate design,
and older chips were periodically replaced and new ones designed. The Nevada
and New Jersey Gaming Commissions require that chips no longer in
circulation be destroyed, thereby creating a scarce collectible. Often, the
only chips to survive are those that left the casino in a gambler's pocket.
What's the Holy Grail of the field? A highly sought-after Flamingo Hotel
chip dating back to 1947 or 1948 often called the Bugsy, after pioneer Las
Vegas builder Benny "Bugsy" Siegel.
The chip is extremely rare -- less than two dozen $100 chips are known. One
sold for $5,445 at an Atlantic City chip auction of $100 chips in January
that raised $64,000.
In particular, "chips from any of these casinos they imploded get real
desirable," says Bill Akeman, a Las Vegas dealer and publisher of Gaming
Times, a magazine launched in 1995. Since 1993, five Las Vegas hotels have
been demolished: the Dunes, the Landmark, the Sands, the Hacienda, and,
earlier this year, the Aladdin.
A mid-1970s chip from the Dunes, now the site of casino magnate Steve Wynn's
lavish Bellagio hotel set to open next month, can sell for $250 or more.
But rarity is relative in the casino-chip market: A thousand examples of a
chip make it valuable, dealers say; 2,000 make it worth face value -- if you
can get it.
--Alexandra Peers and Ken Bensinger