When were casino chips first used?

Prior to the invention of gambling tokens in the mid-nineteenth century, early gamblers wagered cash, in the form of notes or coins, or small valuable objects, such as pieces or gold and silver. Early, unmarked, gambling tokens, typically made of bone, ivory or shellac were a step in the right direction but, because they could be easily forged, it became necessary to engrave, emboss or inlay them with identifiable markings.

The precursor of the modern casino chip, made of 100% clay, in uniform size, using a compression mould technique, started to be mass produced in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Although fragile, 100% clay chips served their purpose until well into the twentieth century, when minerals, such as chalk and sand, were added to the clay mixture to improve durability, giving rise to the modern clay composite chip. The spots around the edge of the chip are created by removing sections and replacing them with material of a contrasting colour, before subjecting the whole chip to a heated compression process.

The next major advance in chip technology came in the Eighties, with the introduction of ceramic chips, which allowed lettering and graphics any where on the surface, rather than just on the inlay in the centre of the chip. Nowadays, standard casino chips measure 39mm, or 1.5”, in diameter and weigh between 8.5g, or 0.30oz, and 20.5g, or 0.7oz, but their exact composition varies from one manufacturer to the next.