Unprecedented eBay Auction: Historic $1M Collection of Casino Chips and Tokens
October 11, 2005 (Las Vegas) -- Pieces of Las Vegas will be auctioned off today for at least $1 million in the biggest legitimate opening bid in eBay history. Those pieces -- a vast collection of casino chips -- date back to when gangsters, starlets, and the Rat Pack ruled the tables and swing bands crammed the dance floors.
Nearly 6,800 poker chips and tokens, assembled by a private Denver businessman over decades, will be sold in a 10-day auction beginning at 3 p.m. PST.
Experts believe the collection is valued at $2-$3 million.
Collecting casino chips from the Bugsy Siegel era of Las Vegas, as well as short-lived casinos from the Old West including Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Virginia City, has become one of the hottest collecting hobbies, according to experts.
This collection’s colorful bits of clay hail from as far back as the 1940s. Many pieces were saved from casinos shuttered by fires or demolished to make way for the monolithic resorts in their place today.
“Interest in the go-go days of Las Vegas is at a peak,” says James Campiglia, a casino memorabilia expert. “George Clooney is building a new casino that will bring back the days of old Vegas glamour and style. Younger generations are fascinated by the Old West’s casinos. These chips and tokens are stunning art from that period, and this collection is the most complete in existence.”
The anthology -- including pieces that are the only known to have survived history -- is called The Platinum Collection. It’s named for the first token ever legally struck on U.S. soil, and presented to casino magnate William Harrah. That token came into existence in Nevada casinos in 1965 when the price of silver shot sky high and Americans hoarded silver dollars.
Collectors recall that in one day in 1965, more than 35,000 silver dollars disappeared from casinos. In the aftermath, the U.S. Treasury granted gambling houses the right to strike their own tokens. The rarest of these tokens used in the 1960s and 1970s are included in The Platinum Collection.
“It would be impossible to duplicate The Platinum Collection,” says Campiglia. “It’s a gem from a world that no longer exists -- except in our imaginations.”
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