Gambling Chips

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Vintage gambling chips are a fun, if sometimes frustrating, collectible. By their very nature, the old illegal clubs were clandestine operations, making information about them often hard to find and difficult to verify.

Clubs sometimes changed ownership, gamblers moved around a lot taking their chips and equipment with them, and chips used at one club may also have been used at others.

For decades, the attribution of specific chips to specific clubs was informed guesswork, sometimes based solely on hearsay and anecdote. But a few years ago, a marvelous thing happened: the old chip and dice manufacturers’ records suddenly became available, and these records have now allowed researchers to correct some long-held but erroneous beliefs about which chips were used where. The “GTBC” chips from an apparently fictitious “Galveston Texas Beach Club” are one of the more surprising examples.

The information provided here comes from the most accurate and up-to-date research available, notably Ed Hertel’s compilation, just updated in 2020, and the database. Other resources include the two-volume printed collectors’ reference called The Gaming Table (5th edition 2017), as well as Frank Chalfant’s classic 1997 book, Galveston Island of Chance.