THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Slick's Las Vegas Then & Now: 9th in Series
Until about 1976, Las Vegas had its own currency as if it were a separate country. The currency was casino chips, negotiable at any Las Vegas casino. A black chip had a street value of $100, green chips $25 and red chips $5. The $1 chips varied in color from casino to casino, and could be any color except for black, green and red. Almost every cab driver or retail store accepted casino chips as standard currency.
Most of the chips were manufactured by Paul-Son, a gaming supply company, located on Industrial Road just west of the Strip. In 1963, Paul S. Endy, Jr., who lived in Monterey Park, CA, planned to take his family to Utah so he could work on a ranch. On the way through Las Vegas, by chance Endy spotted a bankruptcy notice for a dice manufacturer. He borrowed $40,000 from his father and bought the dice company. Paul-Son Dice and Card Company struggled in its early years. Paul Endy and his family made do with a 16-foot trailer and showered with a garden hose. Years later he took on Curley Ashworth as a partner. They never looked back.
Like many successful businesses, others see a good idea and want to cash in on it. One of Paul-Son’s employees began counterfeiting casino chips at home. At his peak, he was cranking out a $1,000 per day in chip profits. That fact combined with casino employees stealing chips, put an end to Las Vegas currency.
Today many casinos accept the chips from other casinos and even a few others will accept chips as currency for small items. Chip collecting is highly popular and the chips folks take home for souvenirs make the casinos a lot of money. It all started less than a hundred years ago in a town no one heard of.