The following story you are about to read involves a very special chip as well as a very special man. It took place in front of Bill Akeman’s Collectable store previously located in a part of Las Vegas known as “Chinatown”.
My friend Richard Averill and I decided to stop at Bill’s store and peruse the chips Bill so proudly displayed in various showcases located throughout his establishment. Some of the chips were for sale others were classified as “my collection” and not for sale. It didn’t make any difference since whenever Averill and I stopped to look at Akeman’s chips the ones we were interested in were never for sale. As I look back I believe Bill really enjoyed doing that to us. For a guy who always seemed to need money he never wanted to sell anything at least to us.
Rich and I averaged two or three stops a week just to discuss chips with Bill and his staff. On this particular day Averill maneuvered his SUV into the head on parking space next to a broken down brown or tan piece of junk others might call a car. We started to get out of our vehicle and were taken back a step by who was exiting Bill’s store.
It was Harvey Fuller. You couldn’t miss Harvey by his unique bent over walk and infectious smile that always had a way of saying – Hi! I should have known when I saw the “Junker” it was Harvey.
You leaving Harvey? I asked as I moved slowly around him so as not to knock him off balance. Yeah, Bill’s not here, the kid said he went to the bank. You going to wait around? Nah – I got a few other stops I got to make. Harvey, you got any chips with you? Let me take a look. He opened the trunk to his beat up Junker and out come a box with one chip in it. He scratched his head for a minute and said I thought I had a few left but guess not.
It was chip N6631 as listed in the 10th edition of “The Chip Rack”; a Jerry’s Nugget five dollar, orange inlay small crown with 4 green inserts. A beauty! Brand spanking new with edges one could cut yourself on. It looked like it was made yesterday.
How much Harvey I asked? He said for you if you promise to be my friend tomorrow - $40.00. Harvey did have a strange sense of humor. Averill quickly asked do you have another? Harvey looked and looked and looked in that cluttered trunk. I think I have another one at home he said. I’ll get it for you next time. Of course, my friend Rich never did get one. I’m sure I got the last one, and with it the short story on how Harvey ended up with the 24 brand new pieces he started with years ago.
Did I ever tell you where I got this chip from? No Harvey you didn’t. Jerry gave them to me. Which Jerry? Jerry Stamis. The two Jerry’s who owned the casino at that time – Jerry Stamis and Jerry Lodge were remodeling Jerry’s Nugget and found them in an inside wall that was being torn out. They located me in the Keno lounge and asked if I would like them. They knew I collected chips and just gave them to me as a present. Jerry Stamis told me that all the others like these had been destroyed and these were all that was left. I thanked both of them and offered again to at least pay face. They wouldn’t hear of it, smiled and left me looking at these beautiful pieces of history.
I told Harvey it was a great story and would cherish the piece in my collection for years to come. I also told him I would share the story with other collectors who would enjoy it as much as I did. Harvey pulled on his bolo tie, smiled and slowly walked over to the driver side of his car. I told Averill let’s get out of here before he backs up; Harvey’s eye sight was not so good which accounted for the dent fenders and smashed up side panels. I believe that was the last time I saw Harvey on a one to one basis.
The chip – well today in my opinion it is worth at least $400.00. Campiglia & Wells list it at $200.00. The Chip Rack as an “L”: The “Official….” have the rarity correct at R-7 but I believe they are off on the value. It would be my educated guess there are no more than 30 pieces in total that are in collections. I rarely if ever see the chip for sale and when I do it is coming out of a total collection that is up for auction or sale. I am told the chip is never on eBay. The next time you are at a show look for the piece. I bet you will not see one.
For those who don’t know Jerry’s Nugget is located in North Las Vegas at 1821 Las Vegas Blvd. N. It is a local’s casino. Years ago I took an official tour of the premises and could not believe the cleanliness of the kitchen where food is prepared. Jerry’s Nugget specializes in Prime Rib. Is it good? I would guess so but I have not eaten in their restaurant in years.