The History of Poker Chips

In the year 1626, Venice became the very first location for a legal casino to come into existence. However, gambling has been around for a much longer time and evidence of it has been discovered in ancient Mesopotamia. The casino chip, however, is a recent addition to gambling and made its first appearance in China.


Towards the end of the 19th-century, gamblers utilized any valuable items that they had in order to make a wager. A few examples of these included silver or gold coins, nuggets of gold or even their own currency (if they had any). As far as standardization goes, it was non-existent back then so what many of the gambling halls and saloons did was integrate a standardization that was unique to their own establishment.

These standardizations are now referred to as casino chips today. Shortly after standardization became the norm, many of the more well-known casinos started making personalized chips out of various materials including bone and ivory as many others stuck to chips consisting of shellac or paper. Unfortunately, there was a big disadvantage to these and that was the fact that people could reproduce them. The gambling establishments caught wind of this so they began to add their brand name to help prevent fakes from circulating until they were able to create a better option.

Then, in the mid-1800s, the gambling companies began to add uniformity to their chips’ creation and using clay in the molding of them. The clay chips that were produced are what paved the way for all casino chips that we see in today’s casinos. But, just like everything, these clay chips had a major flaw due to their clay material used. This allowed the chips to become broken and worthless if a player didn’t handle them gently. This became a constant struggle for casinos until changes were made during the ‘50s. During this time, casinos added different substances in order for the chips durability to become increased. Some of the new materials added included chalk, cat litter clay, and sand. These additions are very similar to the current composite of today’s chips. We will never find out what exactly they are made from because of its secretive nature from the manufacturers and the fact that each casino uses its own mix of ingredients for the chips.

You may have also noticed that chips include spots on their edges that are of the same material as the chips and not paint spots. In order for casinos to create the edge effect they take that clay part off and place a different colored piece of clay to it prior to the chips being shaped. Also, anything else that was to be included was also done at this stage and then received a layer of thin plastic. If they wanted, the chips would then have a mid-inlay applied before getting baked in their mold and compressed to create the chips specified weight, and size.

Then, a ceramic version of chips was introduced in the 80s to give casinos an alternate to their valuable chips. These ceramic chips quickly became popular instantly due to their ability to have graphics and writing inscribed anywhere on the chip and not only on its inlay.

In the last century and a half, we have witnessed the drastic change that casino chips have gone through with the material that makes them. Today, the casino chips have become so advanced in their creation that it is hard to fathom what their future counterparts will look like as people continue to enjoy casino games and gambling in general.