What makes a poker chip worth $70? and other n00b questions…

TX_Golf_N_Poker

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I have been hanging around here for about a month and a half, and I have a bunch of questions regarding this hobby that have been burning holes in my head. Maybe some of you have questions too? So I’m creating this thread as a “safe space” to discuss these questions.

First rule of this thread: There are NO dumb questions.

I am hopeful that you more experienced chippers will come and discuss these questions with those of us asking them and will do so with understanding and patience. I do realize that you guys are very serious about your passion for chips, and especially your own personal collections. So, if one of our questions hits close to home, please don’t take it personally, and please understand that we are just trying to learn.

I’ve been involved in various collectables hobbies since childhood. I opened packs of baseball cards in the 60s & 70s that I still own today. I watched prices of cards skyrocket in the late 80s and early 90s, then come back down to earth in the last 20 years. Along the way I have also collected coins and various other objects of interest. I am pretty familiar with how supply and demand, rarity and historical significance can affect the value of collectables.

In the collectables market, just like any other free market, “real value” is determined by what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for a particular item. If there are more buyers than sellers, prices go up. More sellers and either prices come down, or there are no sales. I noticed immediately that this forum supports a very robust market for poker chips. With chips selling for 10 cents each or less, all the way up to the aforementioned asking price of $70. Even more for some specific individual chips.

So enough with background and Econ 101. Let’s get to some questions:
  • A high end compression clay poker chip (Paulson and other clay casino style chips) has two parts to it. The actual chip and its design, and the label. (or a hot stamp) These identifying markings placed on the chip seem to have a great deal to do with the underlying value. And yet, I also see people who mill off hot stamps, and remove labels to personalize their chips. So, the question: How does a n00b know what chips they can safely personalize, and which ones need to be left as they are so as not to destroy value?
  • And a follow-on to above: Does this personalization materially impact the value of said modified chip? And when it does alter the value, is it usually upwards, downwards, or it depends…?
My beginner take on the two questions above: PLEASE feel free to correct this assumption if it is grossly incorrect. It seems to me that currently, around $2-3 is the line of demarcation. Good clay chips bought for less than that amount can be modified by the user (milled, re-labeled) without having any material negative impact on value, or even increasing the value by compiling a useful and attractive set of chips for game play.

Over $2, and even more so at $3 and up per chip, the chip’s value seems to be tied to the marking (label), i.e., the source casino where the chip came from, as opposed to the value of the actual chip itself, sans identifying label.
  • Following on from the above commentary, is there any uniqueness to the chip itself in these higher valued chips? Do they have combinations of colors and edge spots that make them uniquely identifiable and distinguishable from any other chips, even if the labels were removed?
  • If above is yes, how does a beginner access or obtain this information?
  • Can labels be replaced on these higher value chips without reducing their value? Within this community, we have some talented artists and label makers. If I have a chip, say it’s value is $5, and the original casino label is damaged or missing. Can I have a new label made for this chip that is identical to the original? And would that be considered counterfeiting?
  • So with that, my final question for now, is counterfeiting an issue or problem within this hobby, or within our PCF community?
I have lots more questions, but to avoid having too much confusion within one post, I’ll add new questions later in the thread, or as follow-ups to answers to these questions.
 

dew4au

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then come back down to earth in the last 20 years
Don't you mean "come back down and go below the earth" I have a box of sealed Score 1991 in my storage room that reminds me to this day that collectibles are not investments! I checked the price earlier this year and I'm pretty sure it's worth less now than when the kid version of me squirreled it away back in the day thinking it was going to make me some bank. I digress...
How does a n00b know what chips they can safely personalize, and which ones need to be left as they are so as not to destroy value?
The degens on this board are less concerned about individual chips and more about playable sets. There's another forum, The Chip Board, where individual chip collectors gather. There's some crossover between the two groups, but this board is more focused on the playable sets. Most people here are not going to be modifying chips that are over $5. Some people will. In the end, it's just personal preference and loss tolerance, which feeds into your next question...

Does this personalization materially impact the value of said modified chip? And when it does alter the value, is it usually upwards, downwards, or it depends…?
For most chips, it devalues them. Pete relabeled his set of Pharaohs to say "Pete's Hangout". I don't know Pete; I just want Pharaohs. I will probably pay less for that set now.

Over $2, and even more so at $3 and up per chip, the chip’s value seems to be tied to the marking (label)
The inlay has something to do with it, but mold, spots, and inlay size has more to do with the desirableness for most people and thus affects value more. Don't forget scarcity.

If above is yes, how does a beginner access or obtain this information?
For chips sold in sets, you just have to monitor classifieds and ebay to get a sense of what the going rate for the set is. For single chips, there is a price guide.

Can labels be replaced on these higher value chips without reducing their value? Within this community, we have some talented artists and label makers. If I have a chip, say it’s value is $5, and the original casino label is damaged or missing. Can I have a new label made for this chip that is identical to the original? And would that be considered counterfeiting?
If original the inlay is missing or damaged you will not be lowering the value. It will already be worth less than the unaltered version. Don't forget the difference between label and inlay. The inlay is pressed into the chip and you are damaging the chip by removing it. A label is placed on the chip after it was made. It never really feels like a real casino chip. If you place a label over an inlay, and it doesn't damage the inlay, it will help preserve the value. There is still adhesive to deal with when removing the label, so it would probably still lower the resale of the chip. You could always remove the label and clean it yourself before selling it.

So with that, my final question for now, is counterfeiting an issue or problem within this hobby, or within our PCF community?
No
 
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DrStrange

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Why might a chip be "worth" $70+? Supply < < < Demand. The rarest of chips are unique or close to it. Toss in a handful of collectors who want a complete set and you have people willing to pay big bucks.

Another thought. Some chips are intrinsically valuable. Vintage Ivory chips for example.

Modifying a chip in a permanent way generally is harmful to its value. Often you might not care - say when milling an $0.80 private market solid Paulson to make a rack of fractional chips. So what if that knocks $30 off the value of the rack or raises the value of the rack to $100?

"Labels" are two different things. One is a sticker, easy enough to apply and not so hard to remove. The other type of label is done at Gear's factory (or similar vendor) and includes a sealing process. This isn't so easy to reverse and also is more expensive.

Basic rule of thumb, customizing chips or getting custom chips made is a money sink. Expect to lose a lot of the cost of investment. But the thing is, having your own custom chip set can be a really cool thing. Normally it is not an "investment", it is a form of entertainment. There is value in making yourself happy. Getting to smile every poker night is worth a lot to me.

If I don't get all my money back someday - - - well I don't care -=- DrStrange
 

Jambine

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First rule of this thread: There are NO dumb questions.
You already know you're in the right place to get answers.
The thread title question is easy. The chip is worth $70 only if someone actually pays $70.

edit: I have a realted question on a recent classified. Why are those Big Top chips priced at $10 each? I been doing this a while, but I don't get that
 

TX_Golf_N_Poker

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Thanks @dew4au for the great answers. Thanks for setting me straight on the difference between a label and an inlay. I was not aware that inlays were pressed into the chip, so that helps me to understand some of my questions.
 

Lil Tuna

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Only 99 of these beauties ever made. This chip has the serial #59. Not the rarest of the rare but not easy to find.
6D588242-0D26-4274-90AE-A303D3D54E68.png
 

TX_Golf_N_Poker

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Why might a chip be "worth" $70+? Supply < < < Demand. The rarest of chips are unique or close to it. Toss in a handful of collectors who want a complete set and you have people willing to pay big bucks.

Another thought. Some chips are intrinsically valuable. Vintage Ivory chips for example.

Modifying a chip in a permanent way generally is harmful to its value. Often you might not care - say when milling an $0.80 private market solid Paulson to make a rack of fractional chips. So what if that knocks $30 off the value of the rack or raises the value of the rack to $100?

"Labels" are two different things. One is a sticker, easy enough to apply and not so hard to remove. The other type of label is done at Gear's factory (or similar vendor) and includes a sealing process. This isn't so easy to reverse and also is more expensive.

Basic rule of thumb, customizing chips or getting custom chips made is a money sink. Expect to lose a lot of the cost of investment. But the thing is, having your own custom chip set can be a really cool thing. Normally it is not an "investment", it is a form of entertainment. There is value in making yourself happy. Getting to smile every poker night is worth a lot to me.

If I don't get all my money back someday - - - well I don't care -=- DrStrange
Thanks! You've made two points that lead me to further comment.

First, thanks for the point about removing the label/inlay. I recently bought a set of used china clay chips, and it's been my intent to replace the labels, which I believe came from either Gear or ABC. Is there a thread on here that would guide me on removing the existing label? I've been assuming I just use my nail, peel it off, then clean any adhesive residue. But I haven't attempted it yet, and now I'm worried this won't be as easy a task as I thought. I guess I need to dive in and give it a try on one of the chips...

And secondly, your point about custom labeling de-valuing a chip makes me think of a sale I saw on here recently. These were also not higher end Paulsons, but were china clay chips that are still available at retail. The seller relabeled some of the chips, but retained the original branding, and seems to be asking for more than the cost of new chips at retail. It's a cool set, but his asking price seems to include the original retail cost, plus the cost of new labels, and then a bit more besides. I don't blame anyone for trying to get as much as they can for their chips, but this one makes me think I must be missing something. I've seen other sales too where the seller seems to be trying to recoup their original cost, plus the cost of re-labeling.

To carry this point a step further, when we're talking about these lower realm chips, your purchase price is a sunk cost, and ought to be immaterial to determining a resale price. If you bought them, used them for some period of time, and now want to sell them, you really shouldn't expect to recoup 100% of your purchase price, should you?
 

allforcharity

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I will try to answer only one small part of the questions:

Biggest Paulson (or other clay) candidates for milling are Starbursts, generic roulettes, and miscellaneous initialed hot stamps, mostly because they have no (or no identifiable) casino history, and they are usually solids. They usually come cheaper, too
Next in line are usually various fantasy line chips such as CdM, CDI, etc. Don't be fooled, these murder candidates can still be quite pricey to acquire, but people still modify them because they are relatively available because they were manufactured in fairly large quantities.
Then there are obsolete casino chips. If no collector or serious historical value, they are sometimes modified because they are available, or maybe poorer (heavily used) condition, and/or there's no hope in acquiring a playable set.
Then there are live low denom casino chips. Harvestable, good condition, lots of colours and spot patterns.
Then there are obsolete chips from casinos that are available from Vendors and members, and the trade in NAGB chips (which shouldn't rightly exist). Prices range widest with these, all the way from cheap to horrendously expensive. Usually sought after for specific spot patterns to match a progression, or a specific size, etc.

To me, customization of chips should be done for your forever sets. I place the same importance to it as to choosing a pet.
 

upNdown

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And secondly, your point about custom labeling de-valuing a chip makes me think of a sale I saw on here recently. These were also not higher end Paulsons, but were china clay chips that are still available at retail. The seller relabeled some of the chips, but retained the original branding, and seems to be asking for more than the cost of new chips at retail. It's a cool set, but his asking price seems to include the original retail cost, plus the cost of new labels, and then a bit more besides. I don't blame anyone for trying to get as much as they can for their chips, but this one makes me think I must be missing something. I've seen other sales too where the seller seems to be trying to recoup their original cost, plus the cost of re-labeling.

To carry this point a step further, when we're talking about these lower realm chips, your purchase price is a sunk cost, and ought to be immaterial to determining a resale price. If you bought them, used them for some period of time, and now want to sell them, you really shouldn't expect to recoup 100% of your purchase price, should you?
People overvalue their chips all the time, customized or not. You'll see them sit there, unsold.
Generally speaking, the only chips that can be resold at the same price they were purchased are compressed clay chips - Paulsons, BCC, ASM, etc

And to answer your questions about how to know what chips are worth - read everything that's posted here every day. Do searches to figure out what you don't understand. Ask questions. And scroll back the classifieds for a couple of years. That will make you an almost expert in a couple of months.
 

davethesave

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I too am a n00b and have lots of questions...

I do understand the buying and selling aspects of all this, but like @TX_Golf_N_Poker said, I get confused as to when sets are customized, or sold in part, or resold as a whole, I mean as was stated, if there is no counterfeiting, what's to stop someone from relabeling/milling a set with new labels and reselling for a premium since the set is super rare or coveted? I guess it becomes buyer beware?

Also, the huge sets acquired by many on here, surely they are just for a collection or are these sets being used regularly? If it was a tourney, they must be the same chips... if it was a cash set the same thing... so owning 10+ different sets is hard for me to fathom as they couldn't possibly get equal "play time"....

I do understand that allure of customizing chips to match your own pokerden, but I feel like that is next level stuff. I would never as a n00b and novice buying paulsons for thousands and then get them milled right away with my own pokerden label.... I am still learning here, but I am not going to go out and purchase without doing homework first. I am still browsing here and will take my time. Hell, it seems like borrowing a sample set on here is going to outprice the lender since I am out in Canada, so if that's the case, I need to mentally prepare to mortgage the house or at least sell the car to purchase an awesome Paulson set or set of defunct casino X chips...
 

JustinInMN

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He's down to $19,249.99. But he still has to charge $49.75 for shipping (smh).

Basic rule of thumb, customizing chips or getting custom chips made is a money sink. Expect to lose a lot of the cost of investment. But the thing is, having your own custom chip set can be a really cool thing. Normally it is not an "investment", it is a form of entertainment. There is value in making yourself happy. Getting to smile every poker night is worth a lot to me.

Agreed, you don't get custom chips hoping they gain value. The value is personalization (and to some extent security).
 

upNdown

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I do understand the buying and selling aspects of all this, but like @TX_Golf_N_Poker said, I get confused as to when sets are customized, or sold in part, or resold as a whole, I mean as was stated, if there is no counterfeiting, what's to stop someone from relabeling/milling a set with new labels and reselling for a premium since the set is super rare or coveted? I guess it becomes buyer beware?
Well, it's not that easy. I'll keep this simple, because there are tons of details and exceptions. Paulson (GPI) only produces chips with unique spot patterns. They're like fingerprints. That's what keeps people from counterfeiting them and cashing them in at casinos. So, somebody can't reproduce a rare set with common chips and labels. Also, even if they could, people who know chips could easily tell them apart. For example, you can buy laminated, textured labels that reproduce the feel of a paulson textured label. But you can easily tell them apart from the real thing.
 

gmunny

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Here is my take on a few of the questions you asked.

...the chip’s value seems to be tied to the marking (label), i.e., the source casino where the chip came from, as opposed to the value of the actual chip itself, sans identifying label. Following on from the above commentary, is there any uniqueness to the chip itself in these higher valued chips?

I classify poker chips in 3 main buckets: 1) from real casino; 2) fantasy or reproduction (like Pharoah's, Boat, SB, WSOP and Rounders replicas, etc) and 3) personal or custom.

Related to real casino chips, there are many things that can drive demand but i would say these are the main reason:
1) the history of the casino itself (Horseshoe, Bellagio, ACF, etc) and
2) aesthetics (mold, base color, inlay design, insert, etc).

For real casino chips, if you remove the inlay from one of these chips, the chip is considered damaged and would be devalued. Even if you replace it with a copy of the original, it would be considered altered. Similar to trimming a baseball card. So the value related to the casino would intrinsically be lowered. However, if the casino does't have that much value to collectors, maybe because of large availability of such chips or the casino inlay is fugly, then replacing the inlay to fit a set may increase the value. Kind of like taking a Jacks $1 and replacing the inlay with something to match your PCA $5's. Bad example, but you get my drift.

Do they have combinations of colors and edge spots that make them uniquely identifiable and distinguishable from any other chips, even if the labels were removed?

For casino chips, I believe Paulson kept track of colors and insert patterns/colors so different casino could not order the same exact chip.

  • Within this community, we have some talented artists and label makers. If I have a chip, say it’s value is $5, and the original casino label is damaged or missing. Can I have a new label made for this chip that is identical to the original? And would that be considered counterfeiting?
  • So with that, my final question for now, is counterfeiting an issue or problem within this hobby, or within our PCF community?
Sure you can have someone print a label that matches exactly, however, that chip from a collector point of view would deem it altered or repaired. Not sure if i would consider it counterfeiting if you are doing it for your set. Also, doesn't mean value is decreased. I would expect if these chips were sold that full disclosure would occur by the seller, as I would want to know if they are relabeled and may value it differently. Same if there were any condition issues with the chips, like warping, hairline cracks, inlay lift or fading.

Going back to counterfeiting topic. I would consider it counterfeiting if the intent was to pass of the chips off as originals. In most cases here, it is more for the aesthetics purposes and the relabeling is usually disclosed in the sale ad. That being said, I would prefer that the inlays have some slight difference to the original, because as people usually buy, sell and trade their chips, eventually down the line they may fall into the hands of someone that doesn't know the hobby like us and may not know better.
 

TX_Golf_N_Poker

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Well, it's not that easy. I'll keep this simple, because there are tons of details and exceptions. Paulson (GPI) only produces chips with unique spot patterns. They're like fingerprints. That's what keeps people from counterfeiting them and cashing them in at casinos. So, somebody can't reproduce a rare set with common chips and labels. Also, even if they could, people who know chips could easily tell them apart. For example, you can buy laminated, textured labels that reproduce the feel of a paulson textured label. But you can easily tell them apart from the real thing.
Thanks! That also answered the question I asked regarding uniqueness of chips, both colors and edge spots, and inlays. This is very comforting to know.
 

TX_Golf_N_Poker

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Here is my take on a few of the questions you asked.



I classify poker chips in 3 main buckets: 1) from real casino; 2) fantasy or reproduction (like Pharoah's, Boat, SB, WSOP and Rounders replicas, etc) and 3) personal or custom.

Related to real casino chips, there are many things that can drive demand but i would say these are the main reason:
1) the history of the casino itself (Horseshoe, Bellagio, ACF, etc) and
2) aesthetics (mold, base color, inlay design, insert, etc).

For real casino chips, if you remove the inlay from one of these chips, the chip is considered damaged and would be devalued. Even if you replace it with a copy of the original, it would be considered altered. Similar to trimming a baseball card. So the value related to the casino would intrinsically be lowered. However, if the casino does't have that much value to collectors, maybe because of large availability of such chips or the casino inlay is fugly, then replacing the inlay to fit a set may increase the value. Kind of like taking a Jacks $1 and replacing the inlay with something to match your PCA $5's. Bad example, but you get my drift.



For casino chips, I believe Paulson kept track of colors and insert patterns/colors so different casino could not order the same exact chip.


Sure you can have someone print a label that matches exactly, however, that chip from a collector point of view would deem it altered or repaired. Not sure if i would consider it counterfeiting if you are doing it for your set. Also, doesn't mean value is decreased. I would expect if these chips were sold that full disclosure would occur by the seller, as I would want to know if they are relabeled and may value it differently. Same if there were any condition issues with the chips, like warping, hairline cracks, inlay lift or fading.

Going back to counterfeiting topic. I would consider it counterfeiting if the intent was to pass of the chips off as originals. In most cases here, it is more for the aesthetics purposes and the relabeling is usually disclosed in the sale ad. That being said, I would prefer that the inlays have some slight difference to the original, because as people usually buy, sell and trade their chips, eventually down the line they may fall into the hands of someone that doesn't know the hobby like us and may not know better.
Thank you! Great answers!
 
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