Casino Chips: How They’ve Evolved and How They’re Made

min read
A 3D-rendered image of three purple and gold casino chips falling onto four small stacks of casino chips.
BetMGM Jun 15, 2023, 2:21 AM

Casino chips are the essential currency of the gambler and are as valuable as any traditional or cryptocurrency. In some cases, they’re transferable between land-based casinos, but generally, each establishment issues its own unique series of chips for use at its tables. Virtual chips are the currency of online casino games but are used in the same way to play, win and cash in. Let’s have a look at the history and evolution of the casino chip as we know it today.

What Is a Casino Chip?

A casino or gaming chip is a spherical disc that has a face value the same as a coin or banknote. Chips are used to wager on casino table games as well as play at a casino online. Chips are not entirely standardized, although there are accepted sizes, weights and colors that apply across the world. If you’re playing in a land-based casino, it’s best to familiarize yourself with their format.

History of the Casino Chip

The use of gaming chips for gambling as well as for general currency dates back to 13th-century China. They were made of a variety of materials and today are something of a collector’s item. The 18th-century versions made of Mother of Pearl are especially beautiful.

With the advent of America’s gold rush in the mid-1800s and the spread of unregulated gambling, a version of the modern chip was introduced to avoid the need for time-consuming weighing and valuation of raw gold brought by the prospectors to the tables. Chips were issued against the value of their gold and these could more easily and safely be used in gambling houses.

The first commercial chips were introduced in France in 1873, and since then, these have become more and more sophisticated as the principal means of transacting between the house and the gambler.

How Chips Are Made

Over the years and in different parts of the world, chips have been made from bone, ivory and clay. Today, they are either ceramic or metal. More commonly, casino tokens are made from composite materials including clay, chalk and sand. They’re produced using a compression or injection molding process. Some of the features of modern chips are highly secretive as casinos include sophisticated radio frequency identification devices and other mechanisms to prevent counterfeiting. Each casino or casino chain has a unique brand for its chips that distinguishes them for use in that casino, although some are interchangeable between casinos.

With a diameter of Just under 1.5 inches, the average weight of gaming chips in the United States is 0.35 ounces but can vary internationally between 0.28-0.56 ounces. 

Poker Chips

While some casino chips may be stylized with different inlays, they generally come in denominations that are consistent with a corresponding color. The range of values depends on the casino, with some issuing single chips worth as much as $5,000 (usually brown) and $1,000 (orange) for high rollers. Regular players will be more familiar with white or blue ($1,) red ($5,) green ($25) and black ($100.) Whether you choose live dealer casino games or poker tournaments, you’ll generally use the same color and value tokens.

Online poker tournaments have become increasingly popular but some players still prefer the thrill of real, live tournaments.

Chips and Slots

Historically, slots took metal chips or tokens which created the “ka-ching” sound that we all associate with playing the old one-arm bandits that predated modern slot machines. The sound of metal tokens spilling out in jackpot slots is one of the iconic soundtracks to land-based casinos and which now, as a sound effect, can still be heard in the best online casino slots. Today, metal chips have been replaced largely with prepaid cards and online slots have become a big part of the online gambling sector. 

Casino Versus Commercial Chips

Gaming chips are commercially available in many stores and online and are popular with gamers who play with groups of friends or family for fun at home or in social clubs. Commercially available chips are mass made and don’t require all the security features of casino-quality chips. All chips are made with durability in mind as they pass through the hands of many users. Another key difference is in the indents of commercial chips that are painted, whilst those of a casino poker chip undergo a time-consuming and costly process of clay removal and replacement with a different color piece of clay.

The Role of Chips in Online Gaming

Real, tangible, hold‘em-in-your-hands chips are, of course, not required in any form of online gaming and have been replaced with online deposits and withdrawals and the use of cryptocurrencies. Whether the format of the game is online live dealer casino, online roulette or any other casino game, virtual chips are the currency you’ll need.

Chips continue to play an important part in the interaction between the house and the players, whether they’re real chips that click and clack as they are thrown out and raked in or virtual tokens. To see how they work and to play online, register at BetMGM.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.