Casino chips aren’t your regular run-of-the-mill poker chips used in casual home games. These have a long history of development and design, usually responding to cheating or security issues as they arose. In the mid-19th century, in bars in the American Midwest and in the old river-boats, poker players would use anything from coins to gold nuggets as they gambled. But eventually, by the end of that century, the clay poker chips casino establishments use became the standardized monetary tokens used in these games.
These chips were first made of various materials such as wood or ivory, but the casino poker chips of a clay-based composition soon came to predominate. These were made in high-pressure compression-molding machines. In recent times, though clay-ceramic mixtures are still used to create some chips, the more usual production method involves injection-molded resin chips. And a recent innovation in the design of casino chips involves either a metal center with a plastic rim, or chips entirely of metal. The standardization makes chips easier to stack on a table, easier to keep track of, and easier to count (or weigh) when it comes time to cash in a player’s winnings.
Security has always been uppermost in the design of casino chips. It was easy for players to cheat at the beginning, with everyone sneaking their own chips into games, but finally casinos created their own custom designed chips for all players to use, and this helped cut back on the problem. They incorporated artwork and custom colors into their own casino chip designs. And more recently, technology has allowed them to place markings on the chips that will show up under UV light, or to embed radio frequency ID tags that make the chips easier to track and next to impossible to counterfeit.
As technology continues to expand, though, it may eventually sound the death knell for casino chips, whatever security features they have. The introduction of token-counting machines that eject receipts has prompted some experimenters to take the concept to its final limit, introducing a pre-paid money card that works with a reader at the gaming table. If gamers’ attachment to the casino poker chip doesn’t survive this technological development, the chip could disappear altogether. And all that would be left will be collectors’ items and the romance of legendary history.
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