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Classically designed poker chip inlays

The common consensus among chip collectors and serious poker chip consumers is that there is a lot to be desired when it comes to poker chip design. Casinos, probably rightly so, are far more concerned with security than with design. Unfortunately, it shows. Once you jump into the consumer poker chip world, design somehow manages to go downhill.

Our philosophy, and in fact our entire business, is based upon the idea that poker chip design is of utmost importance. It’s no different than any other business, whether it’s cars, t-shirts, or shoes. At the end of the day, it’s hard to argue with breathtaking design. In poker chips, aside from form considerations such as great mold design, and color combinations, great design hinges on the design of the inlay.

What is an inlay?

The “Inlay” is the industry term for what most consumers refer to as the sticker, typically a round graphic in the center of the chip. On authentic clay casino chips, the inlay is actually compression molded into the chip. It’s far different from a sticker, which kind of indicates that it can be applied and removed separately from the manufacturing process. As you can imagine, it’s not an option for inlays to be able to be removed on real casino chips as they typically contain the monetary value denotation of the chip. In fact, you have to destroy a real casino chip to remove the inlay. As our high-end chip lines (Protege and Archetype) are all authentic casino chips, the inlays can’t be removed without destroying the chips. They don’t color bleed when they get wet. They can’t be easily scratched. In a nutshell, they’re made to last for tens of thousands of hours of play in a somewhat harsh casino environment.

Why poker chip design is so bad?

There are two primary factors that make consumer poker chip design so bad.

Design culprit #1

The first culprit is an unexplainable fixation on fantasy chip designs - consumer chips that try to emulate actual casino chips by adopting a “Fantasy theme” such as pirates, Egyptians, the Wild West, Mardi Gras, or some other theme that a Las Vegas casino has adopted to create an fantasy-like world for their guests. For casinos, this kind of makes sense, although more and more of the high-end casinos today just have luxury or trendy as their theme. But for the chips you use at the regular game at your house, it’s somewhat absurd.

Are you going to magically transform your basement into a real live pirate ship and sweep your guests away on a spirited adventure? Or are you trying to build brand loyalty for your home game so that people refer to it as the game in the pyramid? What is it, and why do you want or need pirates on the chips you use to keep track of the money game in a friendly poker game? It’s just an oddity that has perpetuated into the consumer for no apparent reason other than habit.

Design culprit #2

The second culprit is chip customization. A long time ago, customization of high-end poker chips (and many luxury items) meant putting your monogram or family crest on a chip. It was a luxury thing, part security and part ego driven. Today, with the substantially increased access to customized printing technologies, people can customize pretty much anything they want, if they want, and they can go as low budget as they dare.

Just because you can customize something, it doesn’t always mean you necessarily should. Sure, if you have a professional designer or have been trained in the principles of design yourself, it’s a pretty cool time. You truly can have your own line of poker chips for not too much of an extra expense. That’s cool. Unfortunately, that’s the rare exception. Hacks taking a nice set of clay chips and slapping a superficially thought out design on them just never comes out that good. You can also design your own t-shirt, but you’ve got to admit it’s the rare talent that can get away with that and still retain their dignity.

Bringing good design to the market

Our idea to bring good design to the poker chip market is a very simple and straightforward idea. If the industry is plagued with bad design, then go outside of the industry for your talent. Give that talent full autonomy to design a poker chip as if it were the first chip ever designed, and intended to establish a benchmark for all future designs. Have them borrow from award winning designs in other design disciplines, as well as completely unrelated industries that are known for great design.

What we came up with is classic, elegant inlay designs. Our Archetype line ia based upon a clean laurel wreath and dice design. Our Protege and Le Paulson Noir lines were selected by popular vote from amoung dozens of entries into a poker chip design contest. Most importantly, all of our lines blend great inlay design with great mold design and edge spot color combinations.


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