A Man and His Chips

A Man and His Chips

by Sheldon Smith
According to my research, the Man Cave is essential to the survival of the male gender of Homo Sapiens. In other words, without it, we might become extinct! To say that there are many different versions of a Man Cave would be a huge understatement.
According to Wikipedia, there are at least four Man Caves that have made it into TV series: Al Bundy’s garage from the TV sitcom Married… with Children, Tim Taylor’s garage in the TV sitcom Home Improvement, Bada Bing room in the TV show The Sopranos, and Doug’s garage in the TV show The King of Queens. I am not certain that the Sopranos’ office qualified as a Man Cave but who am I to argue with Tony Soprano?
Define Your Space
The question is, “What prompts men to create a hallowed space exclusively for their use and the use of their invited male friends?” and, “What must it have to be considered a “Man Cave?”
Speaking from personal experience, if you are a collector of Casino Memorabilia then it’s possible your Man Cave looks like a casino!
That is part of the focus of this reflection on Man Caves, and the relationship between the Man, the Cave, and the hobby of casino memorabilia. It is important to note that the collecting of casino chips, poker chips, dice, cards, slot glass (from old slot machines), casino gaming, and other casino memorabilia is a fascinating study on our desire to capture that which is most fleeting – the Experience. Man Caves allow us the opportunity to keep reminders of the good times we had while doing what we enjoyed. Keeping them close and “in sight” where they can be looked at and enjoyed is what brings us closer to our Man Cave!

Consideration of Value
What makes a casino collectible valuable? There are a number of considerations:
First, and foremost is the origin of the collectible: Where did the item originate (casino, card room, bar, illegal club, etc.)?
Next comes the timeline for the item: When was the item made and or used? Here, the older the item, the better. Items from demolished casinos (those which are “obsolete”) are usually better than those from casinos still operating.
Also, how the casino is remembered is important and the more notorious the better! This generalization applies to many now-defunct casinos with interesting and notable histories, either because of their founders, their location or their clientele (e.g., the Sands, Dunes, Boulder Club, Stardust, etc.).
And now: What kind of item is it?
Chips are the Thing
The standard among collectors is the casino chip. The fewer that exist, the better! Which leads to a mystery frequently encountered by collectors – what happened to all the rest of the same chips? Based on records from chip manufacturers, we can learn how many chips were originally ordered by each casino. When we consider that the casino originally had 5,000 made but only one or two are currently known to exist, the logical question is, where did the rest go? Were they lost, destroyed or “put away” for the future? When a chip is valued at a higher rate because of its scarcity, some of us collectors are waiting for the other shoe to drop with a new discovery of a hoard of those chips, thereby reducing the value of what we have. Although this scenario is infrequent, occasionally a stash of previously unknown chips does surface, much to the collector’s dismay!
The condition of the item is important – how does the item look? What is the condition of the item? Obviously, the better the condition, the higher the value for the collectible. However, even some items in well-used condition (or worse!) are much sought-after as that may be the collector’s only chance to own a piece of that casino’s history.
For chips and tokens, the denomination is important too. How much was its original value? For whatever reason (either too expensive to buy outright, or they weren’t available where most gamblers played, or due to higher security at the higher limit gaming areas, etc.), the higher denominations are few and far between and relatively unknown (or owned) by collectors.
To summarize: the older the item, the better … the better the condition, the better … the more notable, historical or interesting the casino, the better, and … the rarer, the better.
Comparatively Speaking
Everything else in the collectors world is in second place as to value but not in terms of aesthetics. In actuality the matchbooks, the postcards, and the napkins are often more attractive, more informative and, frankly, more interesting than the casino chip from the same casino. But not in terms of value!
There are two chips that have actual recorded sales that will astound you. Rarely has anything in the casino collectible world come close!
The Golden Goose $5 casino chip sold for $75,000 right in front of my eyes at the National Convention about six years ago. The Showboat $1 casino chip sold for $26,000 10 years ago. Truthfully, the values of some items have declined. But, many will still command a higher price than almost anything else.
I am sure there are exceptions to my premise, but I believe there are very few of them. My thought is that, if you enjoy something, you want to collect items connected to it. If you have a Man Cave with casino memorabilia, then you probably have been to a casino or a poker room and are a gambler of some substance and desire. And, you are going to prove it by your Man Cave! In fact, the Man Cave (regardless of what it emphasizes, i.e., sports, hunting, gaming, etc.) is a testimony to the owner and the owner’s interests.

A Man and His Chips