Collectors find horde of vintage casino chips buried in Carson City, Nev., parking lot

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Diggers, casino chip collectors and curiosity seekers sift through sand uncovered as part of a construction project in Carson City, Nev. Workers revealed an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 vintage casino chips from the former Travelodge Casino, circa 1979. Photos courtesy Doug Johnson and the Casino Chips and Gaming Token Collectors Club.

Stopping for a soda on his way home from work, Mike Olson spotted a few men digging in a pile of sand near a construction site behind a mini-mart in Carson City, Nev. When he walked over to see what was so interesting, Olson saw dozens and dozens of $5, $25 and $100 vintage casino chips poking out of the sand and spilling onto the parking lot.

Following a quick call to his friend, casino chip collector Doug Johnson, the two were soon scooping up handfuls of chips that were from a Carson City casino called Travelodge, which closed in 1979. Breaking though a concrete floor of the former Diamonique Club of the Ormsby House, construction workers confirmed a 30-year rumor about buried casino chips.

The story below tells the tale and how members of the Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club traced the history of the Travelodge Casino and its mysterious trove of rare gaming chips.

-Editor

So he was driving home from work and stopped at the local AM/PM Mini Mart located next to the shuttered Ormsby House Casino to grab a soda.

collecting lucky coins, tokens and medals casino chips

Collecting
Lucky Coins, Tokens, and Medals

Mike Olson noticed a couple of grown men playing in a sand pile behind the store. He got out of his car and walked over to the pile, “Hey, what’s going on?” he shouted. And then he saw them: casino chips, many, many casino chips. Olson knew the best person to call was his friend Doug Johnson, a member of the Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club (CC&GTCC) and the only fellow he knew who would know what these chips were and what to do with them once they were saved from the sand pile.

Johnson hopped in his truck and drove to the mini-mart parking lot.  He looked among the diggers, some of whom traveled from Salt Lake City, 560 miles away, and began digging himself.  The chips were from a casino in Carson City named the Travelodge, which was open for just a year from 1978 to 1979. What were these chips doing in a parking lot?

The Nevada Gaming Commission regulations regarding casinos that have been closed or sold are very clear. All chips from the establishment are required by law to be destroyed. Well, apparently back in the early 1980s when these chips were scheduled to be destroyed, the concept was a little looser. They were buried. This is not the first time that chips marked for destruction get buried instead.

There is a long list of chips from closed or sold casinos that turn up after the fact. Chips from Pop’s Oasis were discovered after the Nevada Landing Casino was torn down. Pop’s preceded the Nevada Landing and its chips were buried in its foundations and were discovered when the Landing closed. Other discoveries found thier way into casino chip collecting lore as well: the Sands Dig, the Oshea’s Dig and the Atlantic City Playboy Casino Dig in Mississippi are just some of the troves discovered during the last few decades.

In Carson City, construction workers excavating a concrete floor in the former Diamonique Club of the Ormsby House, uncovered a trove from the Travelodge Casino. The discoverey proved true a long time rumor that casino chips had been buried near the area for years, said Al Fiegehen, principal owner of the Cubix Corp., which is overseeing the construction.

The Travelodge Casino chips themselves make their discovery even more fascinating. Records kept by casino chip collectors indicate the Travelodge was only known to use $5 chips and yet $5, $25 and $100 chips have turned up at the Carson City dig. Based on the discovery it is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 chips, none higher than $100 or lower than $5, are expected to be uncovered at the site. At one point, construction crews began to use a Bobcat front-end loader to dig deep into the sand pile to uncover more chips.

As late as Aug. 15, collectors and diggers are still pulling chips out of the sand pile.

It didn’t take long before the chips ended up for sale on eBay. Johnson has created his own listing: “Condition: Dirty from huge hoard of chips found this week! Possibly 20,000 chips found! First picture shows what a little cleaning can do.”

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The mission of the Casino Chips and Gaming Token Collectors Club, Inc. is to promote a closer relationship and good will among the members of the club, to encourage the study of gaming chips and tokens by the acquisition and study of all types of gaming exonumia, to assist new collectors and to encourage others in the study of gaming exonumia, to protect the integrity of the hobby and to maintain close liaison with other historical and numismatic associations.

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Vintage casino chips from the former Travelodge Casino in $5, $20 and $100 denominations.
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