In one of the highest ever legitimate bids on eBay, a collection of Nevada casino chips and tokens - some from the felt tables of Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra's Cal Neva Lodge and Harrah's Lake Tahoe - has received an opening offer of $1 million.
The gavel came down on the auction at 3 p.m. Sunday. Its owner, a private Denver businessman who assembled the collection over decades, anticipates a heated bidding war in the auction's closing moments.
Covered in the chip collection are significant pieces that came from North and South shore casinos. There are chips from the Cal Neva Lodge that date back to 1936, when the resort casino was owned by Bill Graham and James McKay, who also owned the Bank Club casino in Reno.
The Cal Neva was later sold to Sinatra and other partners. The casino gained notoriety when it was the site of an incident involving Chicago mobster Sam "Mom" Giancana, who stayed at the lodge after being banned from Nevada casinos. Because of that association, Sinatra voluntarily surrendered his gaming license in 1963 with the Cal Neva.
Experts believe the collection could be valued at more than $2 million, and that some of the 6,800 pieces are worth as much as $70,000 each.
"Think Sinatra and Dean Martin and Hollywood starlets throwing down chips in Art Deco casinos like the Dunes and Sands," said James Campiglia, a Las Vegas casino memorabilia expert. "That's where these pieces come from."
"This collection is not reproducible," said Howard Herz of Gardnerville, a prominent chronicler of tokens and a Nevada gaming expert. "If you went out today and attempted to build a similar one, you couldn't do it. You'd have to own pieces from this collection in order to even try."
The collection's colorful bits of clay hail from as far back as the 1940s. Many were saved from casinos closed by fires or demolished to make way for the monolithic resorts in their place today.
The anthology - including pieces that are the only known to have survived history - is called The Platinum Collection. It's named for the first token ever legally struck on U.S. soil, and presented to casino magnate William Harrah.
The auction site is ebay.com For more information go to www.chipsandtokens.co