by Kevin Day-Thorburn
Local coin clubs are easily one of the best places for obtaining material for your collection; on top of the items you collect, you’re bound to find obscure stuff you had no idea existed. I was recently given a few woods by a Saint John Coin Club member and two of them were from the Jolly Trolley Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s the lesson: use these unknown pieces as a chance to broaden your knowledge of the world – not just the numismatic world either.
Without a huge interest in casino related material, I almost dismissed these two, but my curiosity got the better of me because of the reverse of one of them. The two woods have the same obverse, but while one reverse is blank, the other has a familiar logo from IGA grocery stores, with BOX in large letters above and Wooden Quarter below (I guess I can’t refer to this as a wooden nickel). Why would a grocery store chain’s logo be on a casino promotion?
I also learned a little about the Jolly Trolley Casino. The building that housed the casino began as a shopping centre sometime in the 1950s on the Las Vegas strip. With the rise in automobile use, strip malls, with their large parking lots and convenient to access stores were all the rage.
In 1963 the first casino opened in part of the mall – Honest John’s. Next to Honest John’s two different casinos operated from 1971 to 1977, and it was then that the Jolly Trolley took over. On one of their billboard they announced, “Burlesque is Back – Naked but Nice.”
Around 1981 the casino closed its doors and the Bonanza Gift Shop, which is still there today, opened with their trade marked slogan, The World’s Largest Gift Shop and with one reassuring sign reading, “If it’s in stock, we have it.”
IGA grocery stores began life in 1926 as Independent Grocers Alliance in the United States and the logo on the wood is unmistakably the same as this company’s logo. I did wonder if that meant there was a grocery store in the same strip mall as the Jolly Trolley Casino, which would make the most sense, but I could find no record of that being the case either in print or through photographs.
Robb MacPherson, through chipguide.com, found a possible answer with a fellow member commenting that IGA stands for International Grocers Association who, “held a convention here in Las Vegas and these $0.25 Wooden Nickel were used to help promote a visit to the casino.” That would make sense as a promotion and “International” may actually be “Independent.”
With the short life of the casino, I don’t know if I’ll ever know. I did find one more wood in John K. Kallman’s book, Casino Woods – it featured the same obverse, but the print on the reverse reads, $50.00 / on your next visit / Fun Book.
Learning a little bit of history is still fun, so make the most of opportunity when she knocks.