The afterlife of retired poker chips

All things in life can be a collector item to someone, and casino chips are now becoming increasing valuable collector items in the States thanks to recent legislation on the disposal of expired chips.

It used to be that expired poker chips would turn up in the strangest of places – often at the bottom of lakes or mixed into the concrete foundations of buildings. It seems that casino bosses in years gone by would think of different places to dispose of the chips so that they could not be used again once a batch had been put out of service.

Spinetti’s gaming Supplies in Las Vegas is thought to have the largest collection of poker chips in the world. Mike Spinetti gets a call when any expired chips turn up anywhere. For instance, when the Dunes Casino was demolished in 1993, hundreds of chips were found by construction workers in the foundations of the building. And again in 2007, when the New Frontier was demolished, there were chips discovered in the foundations that had come from as far afield as Laughlin. Spinetti’s favourite collector chip is a 1947 Flamingo casino chip and this is just one of the chips that makes up part of a $15m collection.

It’s thought by some that casino owners used to bury the chips in foundations of new buildings for good luck, but others say it was just the safest way to get rid of them. Today, of course, many millions of bets are placed at online gaming casinos without the need for real chips. And dealing with expired chips is not an issue for online casinos – the chips are always virtual. When you play online at 32red casino, you get to move chips around with your mouse, but you never hold them in your hand.

The real-life chip finds are becoming rarer thanks to the legislation introduced in 1987. The reason behind the legislation was to reduce the risk of counterfeit chips being used in the casinos. Regulation 12 requires the casinos to destroy discontinued chips in a prescribed way. When a casino wants to change its supply of chips, it has to put plans through to the Gaming Control Board. This includes details on what security ID will be used on the new chips, and how the old chips will be destroyed.

Most casino chips that have expired are now disposed of using a truck that has a tumbler fitted. The chips are poured in and then ground to dust.

For collectors like Spinetti, Regulation 12 has been a bonus, as it means that his collection will increase in value thanks to its relative rarity.

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