This is a bit long winded , so I apologize. I always read when everyone wants the story of how a cool set came about. I figured that I would answer that up front.
As many of you know, most great journeys were not planned. After going to Vegas for 18 years and never collecting a chip, my local poker playing friend shared with me that he was playing his home game with real casino chips . Having collected coins as a kid , I was easily converted to chip collecting. With the help of TKE4life / TheDeezer and David P / afterthefact ( chiptalk and pcf ID's), I started collecting. I can now praise / blame them for this. They informed me that real casino chips were cool, but a Vegas casinos had more appeal and were more valuable. This is especially true now that all Nevada chips are destroyed when a casino closes or they change chip design. As many of you know, Paulson is now the standard, but once upon a time TR KING made awesome chips as well. TR KING has become my favorite as a result of this quest.
My Uncle had always believed that the Tropicana was a suburb of heaven before he passed, so I decided to build myself a Tropicana 2nd Edition set. I knew it would not be cheap, but I decided to give it a shot. I began making a few calls. I came across a unique Palms Casino Tournament set that I wish I still had. I acquired that set as a result of striking up a relationship with a gentleman on the chip board that knew about some mystery chips I had bought on Ebay. I was a new collector , excited and willing to write a check equal to a few months rent for the chips. He sold them to me . Palms Tournament set View attachment 7576View attachment 7577
They had not even been delivered to my house before I had struck a trade with a long time chip set collector on the West Coast. He wanted the Palms set and he was willing to trade me equivalent value in Tropicana 2nd edition chips. As part of that conversation, for some reason I asked , if he had any first edition chips. He said that he had three racks of yellow $5 chips he had acquired when he bought the 2nd editions. Long story short, I traded the Palms set for 1300 Tropicana second edition chips and 300 first edition chips. I figured I was done.
The Yellow first edition chips looked as dirty as you would ever see. It took forever to clean them up. Yellow First edition with one clean & one dirty rack View attachment 7579
After getting them clean, I was now on the hunt for a first edition set. I put out a few feelers on the chip board to see if quantity of first edition chips existed. I was quickly informed by old time chip collectors that my quest for the first edition set was impossible as there was not enough of those chips in existence. I started cataloging all the singles that I saw on chip talk and the chip board. I decided that I would buy singles if I had to. My plan was to try to flip some chips to help fund this crazy Endeavour. Not too long after I started my quest David emailed my with a guys info that had posted on the chip board that he had some Tropicana chips for sale. After a few conversations, I realized this guy had the mother load of Second and third edition chips. Rumor has it , in 1979, the CFO of the Tropicana stole a bunch of chips and two roulette wheels when they sold out to the Ramada. That was the last days of the Mob in Vegas. I am told that he intended to cash the chips in, but found that the chips had already been changed out when he returned. This evidently left him with a stock of cool chips that stayed hidden for decades. This gentleman had obtained them in a bulk buy from a guy on ebay. My new contact's finances were in need of a shot in the arm due to some personal stuff he had going on. I purchased basically all of his 2nd edition chips as well as few third. Just recently I found out that he was also the original source of the $5 first edition chips I had traded for. I guess he was patient zero of sorts. The two wins in this purchase were getting Tropicana chips at a really fair price and a full rack of white $500 Tropicana chips. These are Paulson chips , built were the first issue of the $500 chip at the Tropicana. The rack of $500 chips All the Trop chips from Both sellers View attachment 7580View attachment 7581
At this point I had some inventory to sell and a start on my First edition set. I periodically sold some chips and started my hunt for the First editions. I became a CC>CC member. I realize that many set collectors avoid the club as they mostly talk single chips. Most old time club members do not have the same appreciation for the playable set as many on chip talk or poker chip forum do. That being said there are many cool guys that have the sets stashed away that the set collector would slap their mother for. Their approach is to keep quantities unknown and sell singles. It works, but makes assembling great sets very hard once the original owner sells out.
I began buying single First Edition chips off Ebay and the chip Board. I had spent quite a sum as many chips were over $100 each . One day I found one old time collector with 14 chips of various denominations. Shortly after, I broke the news to my daughter that she was now going to community college because daddy had raided her college fund . I started making calls and emails to the CC>CC membership inquiring about Tropicana first editions in any quantity. I received a bunch of responses of " I wish I had some" . One day I received a call back from a guy that had purchased some chips directly from TRKING before they closed. TR King would keep extra chips to replace damaged chips for the casino. Fortunately this fellow had 14 $100 chips and 16 red $25 chips left from that purchase. Over time, They all became mine. After that, I broke the news to my daughter that college was now on her dime. The first quantity of $100 chips View attachment 7582
I made my way to the CC>CC annual convention last year. I spent two days buying every single First edition I could afford. The three that I let go were over $200 each. I just could not make that happen. Chips bought at the CC>CC convention View attachment 7583
The past few months had been fairly slow regarding acquisitions . One purchase here and there was the norm off of Ebay. I checked in with the fellow that had supplied the large quantity of $100 and Red $25. I told him that if he ran across any, to let me know. Out of the blue , a few months later he called. He had a partner in chips some 20 years back. They had not spoken in roughly 15 years. The partner is now in his 80's. They had recently spoken and that guy reminded him that he was also involved in purchasing the remaining First Edition chips that TR King had on hand as replacements. He had 220 mint red $25 chips and 60 mint $100 chips. This was what I needed to create a truly playable set. After much negotiating and missing a few mortgage payments, I purchased the Red $25 chips. View attachment 7584
I did not need the $100 chips, as I had acquired 20 in various ways, but I could not resist. In my humble but accurate opinion, the first edition $100 chip is the best looking chip ever made . We negotiated over a two month period to land the rest of the $100 mint chips in my set. To my knowledge, I do not believe that there is a surprise quantity out there of the first edition chips. If I am wrong on that, I will have still had a blast on this treasure hunt. If I am right, I think I may have one of the more rare sets around. Thanks for reading and please read up on the great history of the Tropicana with the links below. View attachment 7585