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Antique Gambling

   Posted by: CaptYak   in

Antique Gambling Equipment

For a piece of gambling equipment to qualify as an antique let’s, for the sake of an argument, agree it must be at least 100 years old. That means anything made before 1910 qualifies and should be listed as an antique.

Let’s also agree that the Old West period essentially ended at the turn of the 20th century, 1900.

Based on the two points above we have a gap of 10 years when considering Old West period gambling items and antique gambling items. Plus, that gap widens each year. So you the collector needs to decide are you collecting antique gambling equipment or are you collecting Old West period antique gambling equipment.

Once you decide which it will be you can than begin your search or refine your search depending on where you are at as a collector.

Our Focus

I have a love of the Old West so my focus is on antique gambling items made prior to 1900. I use manufacturer catalogs to help me pinpoint a year of manufacture along with collectors books and similar publications. I also rely on the written history of various manufacturers to help determine the age of say; playing cards, roulette wheels, faro boxes, chuck-a-lucks and so on.

Some items such as playing cards are pretty easy to date but how can you tell when a poker chip was manufactured or a set of dice? For items that that are not already well defined in publications you will have to turn to the type of material used to make the item, how it was made, and design or colors used.

Poker Chips

As an example poker chips were made from various materials such as ivory, clay, wood, paper, rubber, celluloid and metal to name some but not all materials. By researching you can learn when ivory was used. With clay chips you can learn about the various molds used to make chips and again determine when. By learning that wood, rubber and paper chips were used as ” noiseless chips” when gambling began being outlawed and gamblers moved behind closed doors you can narrow down the period they were manufactured.

The same can be said for dice. Bone dice were made during the 1860′s (many by Soldiers during the Civil War), Elephant Ivory was used during the 1870′s and celluloid during the 1880′s.

Fellow Collectors

I also rely on fellow collectors for information. A word of advise if you also rely on others for help with your collection. It must be a two-way street, meaning you can not always be taking and never giving. I recently got interested in Saloon Tokens and began learning all I could. I even put a web site together to help ( expedite the learning process. Along the way I made a few acquaintances, some very good some not so good. I quickly learned that many saloon token collectors were unwilling to share any information they had because of past experiences with fellow collectors that always “took” but never “gave”. As these collectors realized and you must realize is that as you gain knowledge the value of your collection increases. These token collectors got tired of educating others who then took their newly acquired knowledge and charged a premium for any token they offered for sale.

I recently sold a gaffed dealing box to a collector who had helped me in the past and who I hope will help me in the future. I made him aware of the box and gave him first rights to buy, if he was interested. He jumped at the opportunity and I even let him name the price. Why did I do this? Well, I understand how important it is to “give” and not always to “take”.

It’s not always about money

Could I have made more money selling it to someone else? Yes, but that would have only resulted in a sale and I am looking for far more than that. I want the education (knowledge) and I’m willing to pay for it, are you?