Cotton Club

The following article was posted by Jim on the old Prodigy Board on January 6th, 1998

I normally do not write articles that will make money for other people. Generally, I don't sell chips so the articles I write are for information purposes only. In this case I am doing it as a favor to my friend who would like the entire story told so people who may be interested in these chips can buy them with the assurance of what is stated here is the truth as it concerns the history of this club and the quantity of chips found. In addition, I have purchased a set of these chips for my own collection. As most of you know, I do not buy chips I am unsure of.

The Cotton Club was one of the earliest Black clubs issued a license to operate away from downtown Las Vegas. Remember in an earlier article involving the Moulin Rouge I told you how the "city fathers" wanted all establishments dealing with Blacks to be moved from the downtown area. They would not renew a license for a Black establishment unless it would relocate to the Jackson St, Monroe St, etc. areas of the city. The owners of the Cotton Club realizing a legal fight with the bureaucrats of the city would gain nothing opened the Cotton Club at 500 Jackson St. around late 1944 or early 1945. I can find no evidence the three different licensed individuals during the exsistence of this club ever owned any part of a downtown casino.

The Cotton Club, according to Harvey J. Fuller's "Index of Nevada Gambling Establishments" was licensed for slots, 21, craps, keno and poker. However, a elderly Black man who played in the Cotton Club told me he can't remember ever seeing a poker table or keno game in the place. Never the less the Cotton Club was a very special casino for the Black community. It was one of the first places a Black individual could go after 1944 and not be told to leave because of the color of his skin. It put the Green Lantern to shame which was another casino for Blacks located across the street that opened right around the same time. The Green Lantern closed just after a few years of operation, being unable to compete with the Cotton Club.

It is my opinion, and the opinion of others, the first chip used at The Cotton Club was a $5.00 rectangle mold-inlay. A beautiful chip with a picture of a cotton ball in the middle of the inlay. The second chips ordered for the Cotton club were small crown hot stamps ordered from T.R. King in 1953. 300 $5.00 yellow and 300 $10.00 blue bearing the name "Cotton Club" Las Vegas on the obverse and the denomination on the reverse. These chips were confirmed being shipped to Jody (Jodie) Cannon, one of the owners, for use at the club. The Cotton Club closed in 1957. Pressure from the newly constructed Moulin Rouge was just too much to overcome. With the opening of the Moulin Rouge, Blacks had a quality establishment that could compete with the finest hotel/casinos on the strip. Business at the Cotton Club fell off to the point it was no longer profitable to operate. When it closed, it also closed a page on Black casino history thereby giving chip collectors some of the rarest collectable chips ever produced for any casino. During the latter part of 1997 my friend and fellow chip collector Dick Price was able to obtain from an individual who lives in Corvallis, Oregon the following number and types of Cotton Club chips:

3- $5.00 rectangle mold; cotton ball inlay.
12 - $5.00 HS yellow; small crown mold
13 - $10.00 HS Blue;small crown mold

The individual who sold them to Dick did not collect chips or any type of casino collectable. He obtained these chips from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s during his many business travels to Nevada.These were all of them. No other Cotton Clubs have surfaced prior nor do I believe any will surface in the future. From everything I have researched over the last few months I have concluded these chips are probably all there will ever be. Of course no one can say for sure. The best any of us can do is give an educated guess based upon the evidence and SOURCE of the information. At this writing Dick had only:

5 - $5.00 yellows
5 - $10.00 blue

The inlaid ones found a home in a hurry to the very deep pocket collectors. He is asking $600.00 for the $5.00 and $750.00 for the $10.00 or $1,200.00 for both. Are they worth it? Each individual has to decide this question for oneself. All I intended on doing was to give anyone who may be interested all the information available to make an intelligent choice. Whether you want the chips or not give Dick a call. I have found over the course of time his honesty to be refreshing and his knowledge helpful. I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you!!!