The Holy Grail By Steve Cutler


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Over the years, doing many interviews, the question always arises as to what is the most valuable item in the collection. I always think of the casino gaming artifacts rather than the entertainment memorabilia, as that was my first love in building the collection. There is an international organization named The Casino Collectables Association. Thousands of members from around the world belong to this organization. They collect just about every type of gaming memorabilia you can imagine from swizzle sticks to antique slot machines.

The most collected category is casino gaming chips and that is where the big dollars are spent. Rare gaming chips have sold for six figures but unfortunately they occasionally would get discovered years later dramatically affecting the value. I still possess what I and many others consider to be the Holy Grail of the hobby as there will never be another one. That item is actually not a chip but a complete Baccarat plaque set from the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. The set consists of five different denominations, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1000. These were used to play baccarat in the early ‘70s and were not very popular amongst players as they were cumbersome and couldn’t be played on other games. Most people have seen these in James Bond movies and many European casinos still use them today. All plaques are serial numbered. These plaques are very popular with chip collectors, the Sands was the only other casino to use plaques, however I do have a couple of different prototype plaques from the Sheraton Desert Inn ($50,000) that never went into production. My Sahara set is the only matching serial numbered set in existence and it is set #0001. This was Del Webb’s Corporate Set. I was fortunate to know a high ranking executive who helped me secure this in the mid 90’s. In December 2002, Jim Follis, Vice President of the Casino Collectables Association created a registry for collectors to log their numbered plaques and trade with other collectors to hopefully assemble a complete matching serial numbered set. It has been over twenty years and no documented matching sets have ever been put together. Even if a matching serial numbered set is assembled in the future there will never be another one that is numbered 0001. This unique set is conservatively valued at $100,000.