When in a casino, you need to exchange money for chips if you want to play table games like blackjack, poker, or roulette. Now those chips can be used as currency inside the casino. Outside of the casino, though, do chips have any worth? Can you use and sell them as you wish? Are there any regulations or restrictions that you need to be aware of before selling casino chips?
Can you sell casino chips? Under Federal law, if you legally purchase casino chips, you have the right to sell them, provided you do not treat them as a currency. This restriction means you cannot use casino chips to pay for goods or services, but you can sell them directly if you desire.
The use of casino chips, also known as casino checks or tokens, is highly regulated under Federal law. However, you are allowed to sell them as a commodity like any other item you buy legally. Currently, casino chip-collecting is a thriving part of the exonumia community, demonstrating the interest and market for this commodity.
When is it Legal to Sell Casino Chips?
Provided you obtained the casino chips legally, then they are your property to do with what you please. Therefore, if you want to sell them second-hand, that is your prerogative. There are no laws preventing selling casino chips – all rules surround the distribution of casino chips are concerned with prohibiting their uses as currency.
These limitations to chip use are to avoid casinos from creating money that enters the circulation, which would deflate the strength of the local currency, e.g., the US dollar. You cannot use casino chips to tip staff or exchange them for goods or services.
It is significant to be aware that chips outside their associated casino have next to zero value. While a chip may be worth $25 in a casino, it is meant to be worthless once you leave the establishment. Chips will increase in value only when they are rare, old, pristine, and are judged to be a collector’s item.
Where to Sell Chips
While casino chips have little to no value outside the casino, they can gain worth over time if they become a collector’s item. In this instance, chips can be sold well above face value.
Once you have left the casino, there are options to selling your chips second-hand to earn some cash. Remember, though, that there won’t be a market for your used chips until they are vintage and considered a collector’s item. Once you have entered that sweet spot in appreciated value, you have some options as to where you can sell your casino chips.
Selling Via the Internet
A primary method for selling your collector’s chip is via direct sales on the internet. To do so, you can use an auction site like eBay to drive up the interest and cost of your product. An online auction can be the best way to receive the highest market value for your commodity.
Another internet-based method is to use a personal website to sell your chips. To do this, research how much similar chips have been purchased for recently so you can price your items correctly. Take excellent pictures of your chip(s) to assure the buyer that the product is genuine and provide evidence of its condition. List a fair price for your chip on your website. Remember to add on shipping fees, so you are not losing money.
Selling Casino Chips at a Pawn Shops
If you’re looking for a quick buck, a reliable option is to take your collector’s chips to a pawn shop. If possible, chose a reputable business near casinos who are likely to be knowledgeable about vintage casino chips. In doing so, you will find a broker who will be more willing to buy from you. As the pawnshop owner also needs to make a profit, you will receive less than the market value for your antiquated product. However, you will get paid immediately for your casino chips.
Using an Auction
The final option is to sell your chips at a physical auction. If you have a high-value vintage chip or a collection, this method will likely earn you the most money.
At dedicated auctions, collectors become aware of what you are selling, and a bidding war between buyers can drive up the price. Although this can happen during an online auction, buyers feel more comfortable purchasing high-value items through a reputable auction house. Buyers are reassured by independent authentication of the product and prefer to use a trusted broker for substantial funds. If you have a rare chip or two, this will often get you the most money.
When Do Casino Chips Become Worth More Than Face Value?
Casino chips gain value based on their rarity and how long it has been since they were taken out of circulation by the casino. As with most collector’s items, limited editions that are decades old will have appreciated far more than a chip made only a few years ago. If you can collect a set, each chip will gain more value than if they were sold individually.
Removing chips for circulation is a constant process by casinos, and it is the first step to your chip gaining value. High denomination chips usually have smaller run batches and are taken out of circulation faster than lower value chips to assist in combatting fraud. All chips, however, are eventually replaced.
Despite casino chips being manufactured from hard plastic or clay, they do wear down over time. Their deterioration is accelerated due to the automatic chip washers that are used by most casinos, to sanitize their chips. When necessary, casinos will change how their chips look through a rebranding campaign. Following this, older chips will no longer be honored at the casino’s cashier.
If you have a chip from a casino that has shut down, changed hands, or rebranded, it is likely to gain more value over time than a casino chip from an existing casino. If you are viewing casino chip collecting as an investment strategy, then an approach is to buy a full set of chips from a casino before it closes. Be aware that in all likelihood, it will be decades before your vintage chips become worth anything at all.
What to Do with Casino Chips You Have Leftover
Unless you are looking to become a trader in vintage casino chips in the future, you won’t want to leave the casino with chips in your pocket. The best advice is to cash out all your chips before you go – especially if you are visiting the casino from out of town. Even if you frequent the casino often, you can never predict when the casino will rebrand or remove specific chips from circulation rendering your chips valueless.
If you do leave the area with leftover chips, you can try to trade them for at or near face value. However, at this point, you are teetering on the edge of what the law permits. Ideally, you are still in the area and can go to the cash cage and simply trade them in. In Vegas, you may find that cash cages will honor chips from competitor casinos, which can save you time cashing in if you’ve visited a few establishments.
Provided you do not treat casino chips as a currency outside the casino, you are allowed to sell them under Federal law. Generally, this means you cannot sell your chips until they have fallen out of circulation and have no value and cannot be exchanged for cash at issuing the casino’s cashier.
Overall, unless you are interested in making a long-term investment, it is best to make sure you cash in your chips before you leave and take them home. Otherwise, you are likely to be left with valueless plastic lining your pockets.
How Much Are Vintage Chips Worth?
While reselling casino chips is a long-term investment strategy, it can be a highly profitable one. In 2015, a $25 chip from The Golden Nugget sold for $1,000, which is a 3,900% return on investment. In 2005, a collection of 6,600 casino chips sold at auction for over $1 million.
The compilation consisted of chips from casinos that closed between the 1930s and the 1950s. As with most collector’s items, the fewer that were made, the older it is, and its condition all drives up prices. On average, after fifty years, you can expect a return of 10-20 times what you paid for the chip at the casino’s cashier. However, there may never be a market for some old chips, and they will never appreciate. In a sense, investing in chips becoming a collector’s item is also a form of gambling.
Why Do Casinos Use Chips Instead of Cash?
Casinos use chips instead of money for several reasons. One is that their standard size and shape make storage, racking, and calculating the value of a stack much faster than dealing with cash. This helps the dealer give out winnings quicker and easier than if the legal tender was involved. It also speeds up the cashing out process, as the cashier can weigh the chips to determine winnings, negating a lot of the issues involved in buying and redeeming chips.
Casinos also found that players wouldn’t try to steal their money back after a bad bet and run out the door, as a chip has no value unless you visit the cashier. Sinisterly, casinos realized that players gambled more when they used chips rather than when they played directly with cash.
Jim is the author of the best-selling book called Automatic Poker. He has been playing professionally for over 15 years and has helped countless people become winning poker players. Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, Jim has helped demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em.