Casino Chips: A History of Gambling Without Dollars

Given that gambling can be traced so far back in our human civilization, reaching the times of Mesopotamia and the early centuries of China, the casino chips would be considered a newcomer to the scene. Here we discuss the chip, what is it, why do we have them and why the fascination with them?

casino chip

During the late 19th century, players that took part in what we call gambling would use objects of value to wager with. These objects would be tsmall pieces of gold, silver, nuggets, coins or even paper money. The games which were played in the earlier days had no standardization, so places of interest where they were played i.e. saloons or legitimate gambling houses brought in their own standardization to the games which were played. This form of currency to make all wagers fair and of true known value became the casino chip. Jump forward a century and who knew that it would still be something you’d play with inside of online casinos where you can watch player take on live dealers.

Each establishment soon devised their own unique chip or token which at the time was either made of ivory or, where possible, bone. Where neither was possible, they made their own tokens from paper or shellac.

The downside to all this at the time is that they were too easy to forge and that is when establishments using the genuine tokens began to place their markings or brands upon them.

During the 1880s, companies began to produce the first series of clay chips formed. The only issue with using 100% clay meant they were very fragile and, thusly, would break very easily. The problems persisted form nearly a century because it wasn’t until the 1950’s that additional materials were added like sand and chalk to increase the durability of the casino chip. A far step back from the modern currency of the bitcoin which can be read about and how you can use the digital currency as a payment in online casinos.

The markings of the chip which can be seen as edge spots were made of the same material and not painted on, instead, the clay of a different colour would be added to achieve the effect after the clay blocks were cut into the form of the chips you recognize today. Any design or inlay that was needed on the chip, would require a special mould compression that would produce the correct size and weight of the chips, forming it permanently.

Now, jump to the mid-80s and the now ceramic chip was brought in by casinos as an alternative to the clay ones. These became hugely popular as lettering and graphics could be placed on the entire area of the chip and not just the inlay.

150 years passes in the blink of an eye, going from seemingly random objects to precious metals and through to clay and plastics. Today the chip which is used is a feat of modern technology that comes with UV markings, radio frequency identification and more which make this simple casino chip impossible to counterfeit.

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