Chipco Poker Chips Review
Manufacturer: Chipco International
Retailer(s): Stock: Various online retailers (listed below) Custom: Homepokerchips.com or Chipco International
Average Price: $1/chip
Member Review by: Johnny5
If you're looking for a "high-end" custom chip, you really have two options: Clay or Ceramic.
While I think that most chip enthusiasts would say they generally like clay chips, for some reason, it seems that these same people either LOVE or HATE ceramic chips. Clay chips are traditional and have more widespread casino use, however in recent years ceramic chips have made significant inroads into the casino market, and are now used by many casinos worldwide.
Chipco chips are arguably the nicest looking casino quality chips on the market today. The ability to customize nearly every portion of the chip's surface area gives Chipco an edge over the more traditional "clay" chip. With a custom Chipco, your budget and imagination are the only real limits to your design.
With so many variables it’s difficult to nail down pricing. Here is a basic guide:
Stock chips: Non-customized or 'off-the-shelf' Chipcos are available at many online retailers such as:
Pricing ranges anywhere from $0.82/chip, to over $1.10/chip, depending on the design & vendor.
Custom chips: There are currently only two sources:
www.homepokerchips.com : 500 chips: 98˘/chip + artwork fee (from $129 to $374)
www.chipco.com : $1.10/chip + artwork fee ($200 for 1st design, $80 each additional chip design)
- Actual pricing is based on volume. The more chips you order, the lower the per chip cost.
- Depending on how much customization you would like (ie. different design on every chip), the artwork/setup fees can become quite prohibitive.
Out of the box, Chipcos have a lightly textured surface (a fine stippled finish – reminiscent of high-grit sandpaper) that soon becomes quite smooth and silky feeling - but not slippery - with use. I really like the unique finish of Chipco chips very much, and even a very well worn chip has a nice, soft feel to the surface.
These chips are initially cool to the touch, but once handled for a while, they warm right up. They weigh a consistent 10 grams each, have slightly rounded edges and are very easy to shuffle & do chip tricks with. Chipco chips are quite ‘hard’, have no mold design, and the feel is consistent throughout the face of the chip. I think this is one of the main factors that puts people off ceramic chips. This, along with the ceramic construction is also the reason certain people have compared them to "shotglass coasters" or "tiny dinner plates."
Apparently Chipcos come in several textures, but for the regular 39mm chip, I have only seen and touched the standard matte/satin finish. Other chip styles, such as the octagon & plaque – you’ve all heard about Tenpercenter’s Egyptian Chipcos by now! – do feature other surface textures.
Stacking is an important aspect of a good poker chip. You want to be able to stack your chips high in front of you without having them tumble over when someone bumps the table. Inexpensive plastic chips have a tendency to wobble and fall over once the stacks start climbing. In addition, quite often when you want to pickup a stack of these cheap chips (by squeezing them between thumb & finger), they can 'spurt' out of your hand, leaving you with a messy pile of chips to clean up. Nobody wants that!
Now, if stacking is your number one criteria, there are better choices than ceramics. Their rounded edges and relative lack of texture don't allow them to perform as well as some other chips. That being said Chipcos do stack quite well, and stacking 20 or 30 or more on a poker table is no problem at all. They won't stack quite as high as a Paulson, but well enough for most people who aren’t planning to get involved in chip stacking competitions.
These chips have a unique sound unlike most other chips on the market. They are made out of ceramic, and as a result the chips have a high-pitched 'clink' sound to them. I really like the sound of ceramics, but I also like the sound of a clay chip too. Both are good, just different. Regardless of preference, to most people these chips should sound much better than any metal-insert plastic chips!
This is where these chips really shine. Full chip customization allows for bright colors, sharp graphics, and unique style. One great feature about these chips is that you can design the entire face of the chip as well as the edge. This adds considerable design freedom when compared with custom clay chips. You can recreate any type of edgespot design you want, including writing on the rolling edge. Unfortunately, edgespots on the face do not lineup with those on the edge of these chips. This is a major turnoff for many, though this problem can be solved by not carrying the edge design onto the face of the chip. To me this isn’t really a big problem. I look at it this way: If you want to replicate a clay chip, why not just buy a clay chip? Chipco offers a color palette of 80 colors (much more than any other chip company I am aware of), giving great flexibility & design options. All new Chipco designed chips do require a very small “CI” (Chipco International) mark be located somewhere on the face of the chip. One of the biggest problems I and most others have with these chips is the 'nipple'/'pimple' issue (due to some aspect of the manufacturing process, a small mark is left on the side of the chip). Looking at various chips, this mark is inconsistent in shape & size, however it is typically a square or roundish growth (usually about 1 to 1.5 mm in diameter) on the edge of each chip. This bump is not readily noticeable from a distance, nor can it really be felt while casually handling the chips. On some of the newer Chipcos I’ve seen, this mark is more of a round shaped ‘gouge’ instead of a bump. Perhaps there have been some recent changes in manufacturing, or they are paying more attention to this mark, and are making more of an attempt to reduce/remove it. In performing this review, I have also noticed a mark on the exact opposite side (180°) of each ‘pimple’. This mark is not easily spotted, and appears to be more of a scuff mark. There are a number of other Chipco specific traits, and I have included every minor issue I have observed to try to give a full description of these chips. Most of these issues do not affect overall appeal, and are included simply for ‘completeness’ of the review. Additional issues only found under intense chip scrutiny: Ridge: Around the perimeter of the chip, there is a small, barely noticeable ridge where the edge meets the face of the chip. In some cases, you can catch a fingernail on it. Rolling edge ‘overlap’: While the Chipco process is not well known, it is thought that the rolling edge design is applied/wrapped around the chip. In some cases this results in an overlap area leaving a vertical line of color that is darker than the surrounding edge color. Off-center printing: This is only noticeable on the white ring around the circumference of the chip face, and is quite limited in my experience. I've seen many Chipco chips, and a <1mm offset is the worst you’ll likely see. This actually compares quite favorably to other chips on the market. In most cases, all you’ll notice is that the white ring is slightly thicker on one side of the chip than the other. Color bleeding: Chipco’s printing process can result in colors blending together and creating blurry edges. I have seen this problem on some chips, but this can be avoided with careful attention to the design. This occurs mostly with heavily saturated colors that border white, or lightly saturated areas, and is typically corrected with thin black stroke dividers. Rolling edge finish: Another small detail I’ve noticed is that Chipco chip edges are typically glossy on one side & matte on the other.
While a number of relatively minor issues do have some impact on the appearance of these chips, the impact is just that - minor. I feel that design flexibility, colors and sharp graphics make these the best looking chips you can buy. For me, this is one of the most important aspects of chip selection.
A fully customized Chipco is THE most secure/original chip you can get. Because of the extreme customizability of the chip, you can create a design that looks like nothing you've ever seen before. If you are worried about someone slipping in chips at your games, I suggest a set of custom Chipcos. Your designs won’t be duplicated, or sold to anyone else, so you can rest easy knowing that your game is safe. Honestly, I think the bigger security problem here is preventing people from slipping some of these nice chips OUT of your game!
Given that these chips are ceramic, I have found that they are surprisingly resilient to chipping and breaking. I expect that they are at least on par with many quality clay chips in this aspect. The real durability issue here relates to the surface wear inherent with this type of chip. Chipcos are made up of a white base with graphics printed/applied directly on the surface, so any chipping or wearing will reveal the white interior beneath. While these chips will not wear-down in thickness like a clay chip will, the graphics themselves will erode over time. To combat this problem, Chipco has designed these chips so that they are very slightly concave. The center of the chip is thinner than the edge, so that when you stack them, mainly just the edges are actually touching each other. When designing a custom set, there is now a requirement of a white ring around the edge of the face that is not printed on. This is where the chips will contact each other and eventually wear away colors & graphics in the area. Since the chips are actually white underneath the graphics, actual wear in this specific area should not be detectable. I have had my custom chips for over 1 year now, and they have been used on a weekly basis with several people shuffling these chips constantly during tournaments. There is currently NO apparent wear on any chip so far. On the other hand, I have samples that I received about 1 1/2 years ago, and have shuffled these same chips over and over (hundreds/thousands of times), and there is some visible wear around the edge of the face (even ones with the white ring). I also have several casino Chipco chips that display wear on the face. When I first noticed the wear on the sample/casino chips, I was worried, but after recently inspecting my custom chips thoroughly, I am no longer concerned. Time will tell, but I am confident that these chips will look great for many years of home use. This isn’t really a durability issue, but another factor in the clay/ceramic debate is a chip's tendency to collect dirt & grime. These chips do not absorb oils from handling like clays, and since they don't have any mold design or a heavy surface texture, they do not seem to accumulate dirt easily. I’ve never cleaned mine, and they still look as good as the day I received them. Clay chips such as ASM/Paulson etc. tend to pickup and hold this grime in the texture & mold, and do require some additional maintenance to stay looking clean.
When I set out to purchase a set of custom chips, I first requested samples of all types, and I'm glad I did. If you are considering purchasing high quality chips, you should definitely obtain samples first. After looking at various types, my decision came down to Chipco or ASM (Pokerchips.com). Prior to getting samples, I was pretty much sold on clay chips, but when I received my ASM samples, I just wasn't blown away like I thought I would be. On top of that, the more I thought about it, my design just didn't seem like it would work well on the small, restricted inlay available on clay chips. Subsequently, when I received my Chipco samples I was very impressed with the colors & graphics, but was unsure about the feel and ‘un-clayness’ of the chips. Over the next few weeks, the feel really grew on me, and I made the decision to go with Chipco. After having the chips for quite a while, I am very happy with my decision. It should be noted that there are currently two other manufacturers of ceramic chips: Nevada Jacks, and BG (Gaming Partners International). BG chips are not available to the public, but by all accounts are very similar to Chipco chips. Nevada Jacks has been offering several ceramic chip designs, and has just recently offered customized ceramic chips to the home market. These chips have a significantly different surface finish & feel to them. See the ChipTalk review of the Nevada Jacks ceramics. There are people who do not and will never like ceramic chips, and that is fine, but I feel there is plenty of room for more than one product in the high-end chip market: Clays with their classic feel and looks, and ceramics with their modern feel and flashy graphics. Whichever route you take, I suggest you consider both options and decide which style appeals to you.
My custom set - the Joker's Lounge:
2 other custom sets (Suits and Egyptians) featured at Holdempokerchips.com:
A look at several Chipco issues:
Last edited by X-Files; 01-25-2006 at 02:23 PM.