Chequers Book Reviews
by
The Professor, Michael Knapp

Atlantic City Casino Chips and Tokens, Archie A. Black (1999)

132 pages, spiral bound, $29.95 (postpaid), Archie Black, P. O. Box 63, Brick, NJ 08723

This is the eighth edition of what is now known throughout the hobby as "Black's Catalog." The book was the first catalog of casino chips and tokens which aspired to completeness for a single jurisdiction. The first edition of Black's Catalog was published in 1990, and has been updated annually ever since. In 1993, for the first time a price guide was added to the book. Improvements have been added with each succeeding edition, and the 1999 version of the catalog is the largest and most complete.

The Black Catalog claims completeness only for chips and tokens of $100 denomination and under, but many values above $100 also appear and are described in the catalog, although they are not valued in the price guide. An Introduction provides a basis for understanding the differences between New Jersey gaming laws, chips and tokens, and those of other jurisdictions. The next main section of the book is a listing of each chip and token issued by the 23 casinos which have issued chips for Atlantic City, as well as five illegal clubs which predate the 1978 opening of the first licensed casino in New Jersey. In addition to the detailed descriptions of each chip, Black's Catalog was the first to assign permanent identification numbers to chips and tokens, so that collectors could refer to specific pieces in the shorthand of their catalog numbers. The catalog numbers, like those for Nevada chips in "The Chip Rack," have gained wide acceptance among the hobby, and are used and understood by all collectors of Atlantic City material.

The full-color photogarphic section of Atlantic City chips, by casino and catalog number, has been expanded, and is now 18 pages long, reduced in size so that 45 or more chips appear on each page. The next section consists of Fun Nite chips and opening night paper money, fully described and illustrated in black and white. Following are similar photocopies (in black and white) of Atlantic City's tokens, again listed by casino and by catalog number. Premium tokens are listed next, first by description and catalog number, then by photographic illustration.

For limited edition collectors, a compilation of the actual number of "limited edition" chips issued by Atlantic City casinos is included. 197 different commemorative chips are listed in this section, and the quantities vary from 100,000 for one chip, to one ordered in an edition of only 250! The information is especially important for collectors, who generally do not have access to the numbers of chips produced for a casino. Finally, Black includes a retail price guide is included on colored pages, by catalog number.

A quick review and comparison of the Black Catalog price guide for 1999 and 1998 shows that virtually every value has been reviewed, and many altered. Some have increased, some have decreased, and there seem to be quite a few more ranges stated rather than individual prices. That's a reflection of market variation, and is of more help, in my opinion, than single prices. What's clear, though, is that Black has reflected the actual market for Atlantic City chips rather than resting on last year's prices. His attention to detail has made the catalog even more valuable for collectors.

New to the 1999 edition is an experimental cross-reference chart showing the Black Catalog number for each chip and the corresponding Ginsburg Universal Numbering System number for the same chip. This section gives the collector a good idea how the GUNS numbers compare with a known set of catalog numbers.

My sole criticism of Archie's excellent catalog is that one must flip back and forth through the book to find photos, descriptions, issue numbers, fun nite chips, opening night play money, and chip and token values. If I had my preference, it would be that the listings for all issues of each casino would all appear in the same place. The same could be done with the black and white illustrations, although there's a clear reason that the color copies must appear in a separate section of the book. These comments, though, only apply to "user friendliness," not content.

Black's Catalog remains the one essential work for every collector of Atlantic City casino chips or tokens.

Although Black, who is also the founder and President of the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club, claims completeness only for chips and tokens of $100 denomination and under, many values above $100 also appear and are described in the catalog, although they are not valued in the price guide. An Introduction provides a basis for understanding the differences between New Jersey gaming laws, chips and tokens, and those of other jurisdictions.

The next main section of the book is a listing of each chip and token issued by the 23 casinos which have issued chips for Atlantic City, as well as two illegal clubs which predate the 1978 opening of the first licensed casino in New Jersey.

In addition to the detailed descriptions of each chip, Black's Catalog was the first to assign permanent identification numbers to chips and tokens, so that collectors could refer to specific pieces in the shorthand of their catalog numbers. The catalog numbers, like those for Nevada chips in The Chip Rack, have gained wide acceptance among the hobby, and are used and understood by all collectors of Atlantic City material.

The full-color photogarphic section of Atlantic City chips, by casino and catalog number, has been expanded, and is now 15 pages long. reduced in size so that 45 or more chips appear on each page. The next section consists of Fun Nite chips and opening night paper money, fully described and illustrated in black and white. Following are similar photocopies (in black and white) of Atlantic City's tokens, again listed by casino and by catalog number. Premium tokens are listed next, first by description and catalog number, then by photographic illustration.

What was a new addition for the 1997 edition, has been expanded: a compilation of the actual number of "limited edition" chips issued by Atlantic City casinos is included. 152 different commemorative chips are listed in this section, and the quantities vary from 100,000 for one chip, to several chips ordered in quantities of only 500! The information is especially important for collectors, who generally do not have access to the numbers of chips produced for a casino. Finally, Black includes a retail price guide is included on colored pages, by catalog number.

If I had a "druther," it would be that the listings for all issues of each casino (chips, tokens, silver premium tokens, fun nite chips, opening nite play money, limited edition production numbers, and the price guide) would all appear in the same place, to avoid the necessity of flipping back and forth through the book. The same could be done with the black and white illustrations, although there's a clear reason that the color copies must appear in a separate section of the book. These comments, though, only apply to "user friendliness," not content.

Black's Catalog remains the one essential work for every collector of Atlantic City casino chips or tokens.


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