Unprecedented Ebay Auction Receives $1 Million Opening Bid For Collection Of Historic Casino Chips And Tokens
October 19, 2005 (Las Vegas) – In one of the highest legitimate bids in eBay history, a collection of Nevada casino chips and tokens – some from the felt tables of Bugsy Siegel’s Las Vegas – has received an opening offer of $1 million.
The gavel is slated to come down on the auction Friday, October 21 at 3 p.m. (PST). Its owner, a private Denver businessman who assembled the collection over decades, anticipates a heated bidding war in the auction’s closing moments.
Experts believe the collection could be valued at more than $2 million, and that some of the 6,800 pieces are worth as much as $70,000.
Those pieces – including a vast assembly of casino chips -- date back to when gangsters, starlets, and the Rat Pack ruled the tables and swing bands crammed the dance floors.
“Think Sinatra and Dean Martin and Hollywood starlets throwing down chips in Art Deco casinos like the Dunes and Sands,” says James Campiglia, a casino memorabilia expert. “That’s where these pieces come from.”
Collecting poker chips from early Las Vegas gambling halls, 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 Campiglia. “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 singular token came into existence in Nevada casinos in 1965 when the price of silver shot sky high and folks 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.
“This collection is not reproducible,” says Howard Herz, the hobby’s foremost chronicler of casino tokens and a longtime Nevada gaming expert. “If you went out today and attempted to build a similar one, you couldn’t do it. You’d have to own pieces from this collection in order to even try.”
Campiglia agrees. “It cannot be duplicated,” he said. “These are gems from a world that no longer exists -- except in our imaginations.”
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