Casino Chips History: How They Appeared and Why Casinos Use Them?

Casino Chips History: How They Appeared and Why Casinos Use Them? 

Casino chips are one of the essentials in all casinos. Every single casino, both online and land-based, makes use of the casino chips. Since casino chips’ introduction in the 19th century, they became instantly popular among gamblers and collectors worldwide.

The Early Days of Gambling 

The first gambling houses that were predecessors to today’s casinos started to open up in the 17th century in Italy. Venice is the birthplace of the initial gambling rooms, where “Il Ridotto” (“The Private Room”) was the first established gambling house. 

Il Ridotto was part of the Palazzo Dandalo in Venice, located close to the church of San Moise. Il Ridotto started offering games in 1638, becoming the only government-owned gambling hall and the first legal casino. However, the chips were not used back then, with people using other things they could trade for money. 

Casinos started to pop up more frequently in Europe during the 19th century, and the USA also had many informal gambling spots during that period. Steamboats on the Mississippi River were the main gambling venues for the US gamblers, and today we all know that Las Vegas is the gambling mecca of America. 

Casino Chips – Early Usage and Main Characteristics  

Casino Chips History: How They Appeared and Why Casinos Use Them? - Great Bridge LinksIn the early days of gambling, people primarily used golden coins, gold nuggets, and even gold dust as currency for gambling purposes. Soon enough, the nuggets and coins were replaced by chips since chips were smaller, lighter, easy to manage and count. 

In the early gambling days, chips were made from wood and bone. Some were also made from a mixture of paper and clay. However, there was a problem back then with these chips, as players found it easy to cheat in games by adding their handmade chips to their stacks and cashing out. 

When gambling became legal in Nevada in the early 1930s, casinos started to grow and expand steadily. In those early organized gambling days, the number of chips was limited. One dollar back then was worth a lot, and gamblers heavily used casino chips with lower denominations in casinos. 

If the casino shut down its services, which was not uncommon back then, or got new owners, the old chips would be destroyed. Those rare chips from that time that managed to get saved are now worth quite a lot. Collectors buy and sell them for tens of thousands of dollars, despite those chips being of much lower quality than those in use today. 

The Evolution of Casino Chips

As the casinos realized that many cheaters were trying to add their own chips into the stack, they started collaborating with manufacturers to create chips that would look different from chips from other casinos. 

The new designs were engraved or inlaid on the chips, and in the earliest gambling days, there were unique chips made from ivory. Then, clay-made chips became popular, coming in a variety of designs. Back in the day, the first chips were primarily white, blue, and red, but they could be created in any color, depending on the wishes of the casino owner. 

The clay casino chips made by the US Playing Card Co. were the most expensive casino chips ever created. They were manufactured as a circular lithograph embedded in clay material. These chips also had a seal with a special liquid, which was very advanced back in the early gambling days. They looked very nice at the time and were also adopted by other casino chip manufacturers. 

As time went by, during the 1940s, plastic chips became dominant on the market, which was less expensive to make and more popular among gamblers. The chips used in casinos today are typically chips with clay composition or injection-molded chips. 

Since being first introduced during the late 19th century, casino chips have gone through several changes and improvements. Many different materials were used for making them over the years, and they keep improving decade after decade. 

Casino Chips Designs – How They Changed Over Time? 

Every casino decides what type or color of chips they will have for their casino games. Chips were, and still are, different from one casino to another and may have different sizes or weights. 

During the 20th century, casino chips were created using high-pressure machinery, and nowadays, the standard size of casino chips is 39mm in diameter. The casino chip weight ranges from 8 grams up to 20 grams. 

What differentiates them from one casino to another is, of course, the branding. They have the casino logo, some attractive colors that represent the casino, and other things that make them appealing to gamblers. 

Even the online casinos have different types of chips in different colors and branding. We recommend you start playing free online blackjack, and you will see the difference.   

How Often Do Casinos Change Their Chips?

Land-based casinos receive heavy traffic, especially in popular gambling spots like Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, or Macao. That requires more frequent change of casino chips in comparison to other places.

Casinos usually refresh their supply once in a few years. That is done not just to change them but also for security reasons and to keep up with the modern gambling trends. Before casino chips get entirely replaced with new ones, casinos give a specific period in which players can replace their old chips with cash. 

Before the new casino chips start to be manufactured and introduced for usage in the casino, they must get approved by an authority responsible for such matters, like the Gaming Control Board. Their design and features must go under review before getting approved. 

That is very different from the old days when old casino chips were disposed into trash dumps or mixed with concrete. Today, casino chips can only get destroyed if the Gaming Control Board approves that. The old casino chips must be destructed in a controlled environment, crushed into dust, all of that in the presence of gaming regulators. 

Facts About Casino Chips 

Casino chips have been popular among gamblers ever since their first introduction in the 1880s. Casino chips are a form of currency in casinos, and they are also referred to as casino tokens. Casino chips are used both in online and land-based casinos. Land-based casinos usually have chips made from clay or metal. The metal chips are not uncommon, and these coins are typically used for playing slot machines or video poker

All casino chips have their serial numbers. Differently colored chips have different values, which makes them easier to count compared to paper money. Players can exchange their casino chips for real money at any time they wish. All the casino players have to do is visit the cashier and make the transaction. Outside of the casino, where chips are used for playing, there is no use for them. Players cannot use them in stores or anywhere else. 

Additional Facts About US Casino Chips 

During the 1800s, gambling became quite popular in the United States. Primarily the West states were known as hotspots for gambling, with gamblers coming to gambling houses, saloons, and riverboats to play cards and gamble on other games. With the increased gambling popularity, there was a need to keep track of all wins and losses during a gambling session. 

The problem in the early days of gambling was that many players had different currencies on them. Some of them did not have any paper currency at all. Some came with gold dust, others had gold nuggets, while some had gems and minerals they found while working in mines. Not only that, but some even put their cattle, food, or other personal items on stake to gamble. All of that led people to search for something that should be a standard currency for gambling, and chips slowly got introduced. 

The first casino chips were introduced in small card rooms across the US and on the riverboats. Some gambling houses started developing their chips, giving them to players in exchange for a small fee. There were no plastic chips back in those days. Stones, wood, and bones were used in the form of tokens.

Later, clay chips started appearing in the late 1800s. As technology developed, new materials and methods of making chips got introduced. Soon enough, acrylic and plastic chips appeared on the gambling market. Some manufacturers even produced ivory chips, which were expensive to make and are not in use today. 

How Chips Improve Security in Casinos 

Each casino has its different chips, different from chips in other casinos and easily recognized based on their branding, colors, and other factors. Casino chips are not just simple tokens for playing, but they also have some pretty good security features that protect casinos. With those security features, casinos protect themselves from fraudulent activities. 

Most casinos have chips with RFID features for tracking or UV markings, preventing frauds and cheats. Casinos also train staff to get familiar with the security features of chips, so it’s very difficult or almost impossible for cheaters to sneak fake chips or cash them in the casino. 

The Benefits of Casino Chips 

There are numerous benefits of casino chips, both for casinos and gamblers. Here are some of them:

  • Easier to count than paper money
  • Easy to carry around in the casinos
  • Uniform weight
  • An easy distinction of different chip values
  • Convenient for spending in casinos 
  • Better security

Chips in Use in Brick-and-Mortar Casinos

In land-based casinos, every casino has chips that are used only on their premises. Different colors have different values. For example:

Color of Casino Chips Value
White $1
Pink $5
Red $10
Green $25
Black $100
Purple $500
Orange $1000


Remember that the chip’s value and color differ from one casino to another, and this is a general pointer of standard chip values. There is no universally adopted color scheme for casino chips. Designs are variable nationally and regionally and sometimes differ by the casino venue’s event type.

Regarding online casinos, things are much simpler here. In online casinos, players use virtual chips that players purchase before they play a particular casino game. All other rules regarding using and playing with the chips are entirely the same in online casinos. Of course, every online casino has terms and conditions for using casino chips and the ways of cashing them out. 

Modern Casino Chips 

Casinos grew large in the mid-20th century, and now they have established venues regularly visited by millions of people each year. Gamblers worldwide visit mega-popular casinos in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world, enjoying various casino games. 

Today, casino chips are authentic, attractive, and made of high-quality, durable material. Many casino chips have microchips inside them, making them easy to track. The exact size, weight, shape, and color all depend on the specific casino or casino game. Millions of casino chips are produced each month, specially customized to particular casinos. 

Most casino chips have different denominations printed on them, but there are also unmarked chips for specific games in specific casinos worldwide. The quality of casino chips today is significantly better than a few decades ago. If you are not a visitor of land-based casinos and still want to have casino chips for your home play, you should know that you have some excellent options.

Casino Chips for Home Play 

Nowadays, you can find some casino chipsets for home play in general or specialized stores. These chips are usually made from plastic, coming with a plastic case where you can store them. However, there are also some more expensive sets with chips made of clay-composite, coming in different weights. In general, the heavier the chips, the better the quality. Heavier chips are usually sold in aluminum cases and come in various designs. 

Anyhow, the casino chips for home play and real casino play are undoubtedly different. Those in casinos are custom-made and are of the highest quality. Most of them are also made of clay-composite, but some smaller casinos still use ceramic chipsets. Players can buy real casino chips from specialized websites or collector shops. There is also an option to purchase casino chips of the highest quality with the same weight, design, and material as those in casinos, by directly contacting the distributor. 

How Many Casino Chips to Buy for Home Play

Choosing chips for home play also needs considering how many of them you need. Usually, people buy these for playing home poker games, and these sets are the most popular. Standard poker chip sets include 200, 300, or 500 chips. If you need chips for casual playing with a friend or two from time to time, then 200 or 300 chips are more than enough. However, if many players plan to play, consider purchasing a set of 500 chips. Another thing to consider is the game limits of the home game. That way, you can better decide on the denominations you need. 

Collecting Casino Chips 

Casino Chips History: How They Appeared and Why Casinos Use Them? - Great Bridge Links

There are many people out there that collect casino chips as a hobby. This hobby gets more popular each day, and more and more people join in. In 1988, the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club was formed, increasing casino chip collecting popularity. 

Nowadays, you can find some collectors valuing their old casino chips up to six figures in dollars, trading them on various online trading platforms. Some casinos also make custom-made sets, selling them to collectors at different prices, with a special certificate. 

The collectors club mentioned above holds an annual convention in Las Vegas, with sellers and buyers from all over the US and worldwide coming to buy and sell casino tokens and other collectibles. 

Not only are collectors searching for older casino chips that are no longer in use, but sellers are also selling chips that no longer exist and were part of gambling houses a long time ago. Some of these even have names, symbols, and logos from underground casinos and games from the past. 

The fact is that some rare casino chips can go up to a hundred thousand dollars in value. A few years ago, a simple but rare $5 casino chip from the Golden Goose Casino in Las Vegas got sold for over seventy thousand dollars. That is just an example of how some casino chips are highly sought and valuable. 

What Does the Future of Casino Chips Hold?

There are many predictions, debates, and conversations about what the future will bring for casino chips. Some casino experts wonder whether new types of chips will replace traditional casino chips. 

Since we live in modern times and are going through a technology revolution, many believe that electronic devices will replace standard casino chips. Online casinos already use virtual chips, but land-based casinos are more conservative, and they assure players that the casino chips as we know them will be in use for many years to come. 

The truth is that most gamblers like to physically see and touch casino chips, regardless of how advanced modern technology is. Also, players want to play with their tokens when they contemplate their bets. It gives them a sense of calmness and relaxes them when they play casino games. If the physical casino chips are replaced with electronic or virtual devices, then the big part of the casino games will be gone entirely. 

For those reasons alone, we should expect to see casino chips in their traditional form and shape remain in casinos for many years to come. Perhaps, the anti-fraud and anti-cheat technologies will become more advanced, and the chips will get some additional features inside them, but overall they should remain the same. That is a good thing for many because casino chips are the ones that give soul to casino games. 

Conclusion – Casino Chips Are Here to Stay

We can conclude that casino chips have gone a long way since their introduction in the 19th century. With casino chips in play, things are much easier both for casinos and gamblers. Many studies have shown that players are willing to gamble more when they have casino chips in front of them instead of money. 

When you have $100,000 in casino chips in front of you, that does not look much. You see them as tokens for playing the game. But if a player sees that amount in piles of cash, they might freeze up and do not want to gamble. It is a psychological thing that works, which suits casinos well.

Casino chips are suitable for players because it is much safer for players to walk around casinos without dragging briefcases with money. The risk of losing money in the casino or getting robbed is more significant if a player takes paper currency with them.

There is no such risk with casino chips because casino chips cannot be used anywhere else apart from the casino they are from. Also, modern casino chips have tracking devices, making it easier to locate them and retrieve them in case of a loss or theft. 

All of this point that we are likely to see casino chips remain an integral part of casinos. That suits well both casinos and players, so rest assured that you will be able to play with them for many years to come.

Online casinos also have virtual chips in play, so these appealing little tokens and clinging will be heard over and over again as long as casinos exist. 

Hopefully, this article helped you learn more about the casino chips history, how these tokens appeared, and why casinos use them to this day.