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‘Tokens’ of Vegas history on display at casino collectibles show

There’s likely hundreds of thousands of poker chips inside the Gold Coast’s California ballrooms, and to some, their value is priceless.

Collectors and dealers from the Southern Nevada Casino Collectibles Club showed off their poker chips, tokens, drink stirrers, card decks, matchbooks and more on Friday, the first day of its first memorabilia show.

Club leadership hopes showing off the history of old Vegas will encourage more people to join or visit a meeting, which is held monthly at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at El Cortez Hotel and Casino.

Brad Smith, the club’s publicity chair, said many locals don’t even realize the social group of gaming and history aficionados exists.

“I think the reaction oftentimes is, ‘I didn’t know there was one. You mean there’s a club or other people that enjoy casino memorabilia like I do?’” Smith said.

Attendees said they felt a connection to the items as pieces of Las Vegas history. Little details give clues to its time period and purpose like a medallion from Caesars Palace that was a comp gift and a Riviera matchbook, listing its restaurants.

Also on display was a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest private personal collection of casino chips and gaming tokens from different casinos — 2,222 items owned by Las Vegas resident Gregg Fisher.

Fisher said his collection is actually more than 8,436. The first item was purchased at the Desert Inn in 1975 and the last one was purchased Friday at Gold Coast before the show. But No. 2 is his favorite number, so he stopped there for the record process.

“I remember old Vegas and I remember shaking hands with Dean Martin — the way it used to be,” he said. “I just love casinos. I love everything about them. I fell in love with them the first time I went in and I feel the same way.”

Mark Hall-Patton, retired Clark County Museum administrator, attended the show Friday. Though he’s not a collector of gaming memorabilia, he’s seen many collections at the museum showcasing Nevada’s history of gambling.

And there’s much to learn from each item. Hall-Patton recommends visitors and history buffs ask the dealers about items of interest.

“They love to inform people, they want to get new people into the field,” he said. “They’re as interested in making you aware of how fun this is as they are about selling or trading. They’re just as excited about that as getting something new.”

The memorabilia show continues Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5. The public is welcome to buy, trade or sell many items and can get items appraised on site.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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