In the world of poker and casino enthusiasts, collecting rare casino chips isn’t just a pastime; it’s a passion. Among these collectors stands Paul Schaffer from Kansas City, Missouri, whose extensive collection of 2,250 casino chips has earned him a spot in the Guinness Records. Schaffer, who embarked on this hobby 20 years ago, discovered his interest in collecting casino chips during his youthful casino visits.
“Growing up in Minnesota, where gambling was legal from the age of 18, casinos were a source of entertainment for me,” Schaffer recounted to Guinness. “During my first trip to Vegas for my 30th birthday, presented by my wife, I was captivated by the unique chips on the tables. Opting for a more meaningful souvenir, I decided to keep a chip from every casino we visited, marking the beginning of my collection.”
Historical Chips from Bygone Casinos
The hobby of collecting casino chips has seen a surge in popularity, with annual conventions in Las Vegas dedicated to casino memorabilia and collectors. Schaffer’s journey into chip collecting began with a gift from his mother, a chip from the Silver Slipper Casino in Las Vegas, which operated from 1950 until its demolition in 1988 to make room for the Frontier. Known for its iconic rotating silver slipper, the casino became infamous in 1964 as the first to be closed down for cheating, employing tactics like “flat dice.”
Among Schaffer’s prized possessions is a 1964 $1 Christy & Jones purple chip from the Thunderbird Casino in Las Vegas. “The Thunderbird epitomizes old Vegas charm, and the unique purple hue with red inserts of the chip is quite rare today,” Schaffer noted.
Schaffer’s enthusiasm extends beyond just collecting; he relishes conversations with casino staff about the history and acquisition of chips. His quest for chips from defunct casinos continues, alongside his pursuit for pieces from newer establishments.
“Having recently returned from Las Vegas to collect new $1 chips from several casinos, my journey took me across the city to add to my burgeoning collection,” he shared.
The Rarity of Casino Chips: A Complex Tale
Not all chips from old casinos carry the badge of rarity. An interesting case involved the former Playboy Casino in Atlantic City, where New Jersey gaming authorities discovered an abundance of chips still in circulation long after the casino’s closure in the 1980s. This was highlighted in 2008 when a construction worker in Hernando, Mississippi, unearthed a trove of these chips in a concrete slab, a surprising find over 1,000 miles away from the original casino. This incident raised questions about the supposed destruction of these chips, adding an intriguing chapter to the world of chip collecting.