Prohibition-era Casino Chips May Net Finder $240kDecember 26, 2013 1:49 pm
Over the years, Indiana treasure hunter Lonnie Graves has enjoyed scouring auctions, flea markets and second-hand shops looking for old-time treasures to add to his collection. However, the Lawrence County resident also makes a lucrative side-line in selling some of his finds, and as he explains:
“I’ve always been around old stuff, your butter churns, your crocks, things like that. I like old houses and what’s in them. Old cars. I’ve always picked and hoarded and collected and sold..It’s kind of my hobby, but also has become a way to make a living. I’m really a contractor, and I’ve been in the tree business for a long time.”
Some of the items Graves has sold includes a 1950s metal toy truck he bought at an auction for $10 and later sold for $125, and a vintage leather jacket he paid $5 for and subsequently sold for $75. Now, however, he may have made the most lucrative find of his career after purchasing 2,400 illegal Prohibition-era casino chips on eBay for an undisclosed sum.
The crest-and-seal clay chips date to the 1920s and belonged to the old Brown Hotel in French Lick, Indiana, where during a time when drinking and gambling were banned, the rich and famous would go to indulge their guilty pleasures underground. Eventually, the thriving Brown Hotel casino was shut down by the government in 1949, and apparently the chips bought by Lonnie Graves originally belonged to Shauna Burton, whose grandparents ran the nearby Star Store on Maple Street in downtown French Lick. Incredibly, after the old Brown Hotel was demolished in the 1960s, they then collected the gambling chips from the rubble and had stored them in their attic ever since.
Recounting the story of his purchase, Graves, said he bought 100 of the chips on eBay, and traveled to nearby Paoli to make the collection. Elaborating further, he then continues: “When I got there, I asked if he had any more, and he said yes — and came back around the corner with a whole big box full.”
Graves said that each of the 2,400 chips could potentially be worth around $100, netting him a cool $240,000, explaining: “People are just now starting to get very interested in these. They are the modern-day silver dollar.”