Chequers Book Reviews
The Professor, Michael Knapp
Black's Catalog of Puerto Rico Casino Chips, Archie A. Black (1999)75 pages, spiral bound, $29.95 (postpaid),
Archie Black, P. O. Box 63, Brick, NJ 08723
Now there's a second "Black's Catalog." I suppose the hobby will begin to refer to "Black's AC Catalog" and "Black's PR Catalog" to distinguish the two! This review considers the most recent of the two: PR. The Black's AC Catalog is reviewed here as well.
For many years, the hobby was starved for authoritative and complete information about Caribbean casino chips and tokens, with value guides. The last couple of years have seen the Pollack and Ginsburg guides to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and St. Maarten (reviewed here as well), and now Archie Black has contributed his excellent Puerto Rico guide to fill out the group.
Of the Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico has had the most casinos and the most chips. Unlike Black's Atlantic City work, this catalog and price guide covers only chips, not tokens. The book begins with a one-page history of Puerto Rico, followed by a guide for use of the catalog.
The main section of the book, listing chips with catalog number, location, description and estimated value, is 44 pages long, followed by 20 pages of color photographs (more than 1,000 in reduced size) of Puerto Rican chips. As have several other price guide authors (see, for example, "The Chip Rack" and "Riverboat Casino Chips & Price Guide"), Black's PR Catalog uses alphabetical value codes to provide ranges for the guidance of collectors. Black is careful to note in several places that valuing Puerto Rican chips is somewhat difficult and not an exact science, but his guide is the best attempt so far to do so, and will be helpful to every collector of Puerto Rican material.
Rather than repeating the value code guide on each page, as some books do, Black has included with each copy of his book a plastic-laminated half sheet showing the values in each range. The printing on the insert is large, making its use easy for the researcher. Two slight criticisms here: first, there's the chance, of course, that the convenient separate laminated value guide will become separated from the book, requiring the reader to flip back to the bound-in chart. Second, while the use of alphabetical references for value ranges is the most abbreviated way to refer to chip values, the reader may wish that the authors of various price guides would settle on a single system, so that a "D" value chip would represent the same dollar value range, regardless of which catalog the reader is using at the time.
Another small flaw is that the catalog numbers are not necessarily consistent. The Ambassador Plaza chips listed, for example, are shown as AMB-2.5, for the $2.50 chip, while the roulettes from the Ambassador Plaza are numbered as ROL-1 through ROL-20. Yet for most other casinos in the book, roulettes bear the same three-letter casino identification abbreviation as the value chips. This inconsistency makes the identification of chips by catalog number a bit less intuitive, but each chip still bears its own unique number, so ultimately there will be no confusion.
Black indicates that a more complete Puerto Rico catalog may some day be published by collectors who live in Puerto Rico, but there is no indication when that book might be available to collectors. As an indication of how complete Black's is, although I don't have one of the largest collections of Puerto Rican chips, I have about 200 chips from Puerto Rico in my own collection. All but one was listed in Black's PR Catalog. The student of casino chip collecting wishes that there were some explanation given for the vast number of same-denomination, same-color chips from a casino, the difference among them being only the color or number of edge inserts. I personally would like to have seen an explanation of credit vs. regular play chips, and roulette (which in many PR casinos have values on them, unlike casinos in the U.S.) vs. regular play chips.
Black's PR Catalog represents a major addition to the literature of chip collecting, and is a valuable reference work and price guide for collectors of Puerto Rican material. As the author says in his introduction, "We need more, not less, reference materials on all subjects for chip and token collectors." There is no substitute for being well informed, and Black's PR Catalog makes that job far easier for the Puerto Rican collector.