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If you had a stray $1000 with no designs on it, you could have bought a beautiful ashtray from the old Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas at the time that "Bugsy" Siegel was the casino operator and the Mob was waiting impatiently for the new club to turn a profit. Of course the club was slow in recouping the Mob's investment, so "Bugsy" got mowed down, but that very notoriety keeps the Flamingo's advertising and marketing memorabilia the most valuable in the casino-collecting field, including ashtrays.

One of which just sold for $1010. Ashtrays are part of the Tobacciana field of collecting, along with matches, http://slotoff.com/ lighters, tobacco tins and such. According to "Collectors Weekly, "ashtrays were produced during some of the most creative periods in history...and ashtrays are snapshots of their culture, so it is not uncommon to find ashtrays that were produced to advertise products and events of the day." The hobby field of casino-related ashtrays is lead by The Nevada Casino Ashtray Project, a non-profit group headed by Mark and Lynn Englebretson who keep track of new finds of old ash trays at their web site.

The site includes photos, collecting advice, and stories about the very casinos the ashtrays came from. Although the Englebretson's have been casino memorabilia collectors for quite some time, it was Art Anderson's book, Casinos And Their Ashtrays, that created a strong base for the hobby after its publication in 1994. Many Nevada casinos from the 1940's through 1960's used matches and ashtrays to market their clubs.

Harold's Club in Reno was one of the first casinos to actually deliver their ashtrays to locations outside the city to push their club, but the style of ashtray (black with lettering across the top) and the large quantity produced have kept their collectibles at a reasonable $10 range. Smaller clubs that used clear glass with a decal or painting on the bottom seem to be the most valuable. According to the Ashtray Project, Grade 4 excellent condition originals from casinos like the Twin States Club, Pair o-Dice, Cotton Club and the Stardust Tahoe are highly collectible.

Price ranges from several hundreds of dollars to four figures for these wonderful finds. Ever consider what's in your garage?