Ken McGrail, a software engineer for a Seattle, Wash. area enterprise software company, has turned a hobby making crypto-logoed poker chips into a business. His high quality, professional-looking poker chips have proven popular with both crypto enthusiasts and poker players.
McGrail’s website, cryptochips.net, sells these crypto tokens for $2.50 a piece and provides free shipping. The website displays the token designs, both front and back sides. Tokens are 39 mm in diameter, 10 grams in weight, and have full-color printed edges.
In an exclusive interview with CCN.com, McGrail said he started creating crypto-logoed poker chips because he wanted some type of physical representation for the crypto he was mining. “I got into crypto right around the time Dogecoin was getting popular and tinkering with config files … and upgrading cooling in my rig was what I spent most of my evenings doing,” he said.
In search for a physical representation for crypto
“I had seen some metal coins, but the price point just wasn’t low enough for me,” he said. McGrail tried making coins with full-color resin, but he found this was even more expensive than buying metal coins. “A few weeks later, I was on a plane flying down to Vegas for a conference, and when I saw the poker chips at the casino, it hit me like a ton of bricks.”
“The second I got home, I started looking into it, and designed and created my first batch.”
In the beginning, McGrail was not looking to turn the crypto tokens into a business. But when he realized how popular the chips were with people he showed them to, he realized there was a market. “Once I started showing them off, people kept offering to buy them from me.”
McGrail sold his mining rig parts and invested the proceeds into designing crypto poker chips. “Before I knew it, CryptoChips.net was up and running. Now instead of tweaking GPU settings at night, I design and pack chips. It’s become my new hobby and after about a year of doing it, it hasn’t bored me.”
Durable and aesthetic tokens
McGrail creates the tokens using a ceramic disc with color printing.
“I’ve seen custom poker chips which use stickers to apply the artwork. Not my chips. These chips are printed directly into the material so that it can’t peel off. They are also textured to improve durability and aesthetics.”
He began posting pictures of his crypto tokens on Twitter, and the response was encouraging. “I then just started designing chips for crypto that seemed to be popular,” he said. “What started as three different designs on the site (bitcoin, Dogecoin and Litecoin) has now grown to over 85 designs, with more coming soon.”
Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Litecoin remain the most popular tokens. “I’m not surprised because what I have found is that those are really the most popular crypto as well. So it makes sense that people would be more attached to those.”
Most of McGrail’s purchase orders fall into two sizes: orders for one or two tokens and orders for 20 and more tokens. When people place large orders, it’s usually to play poker with them. McGrail offers discounts for large orders.
Oftentimes, customers like having the tokens on their desks. Customers find they make good conversation pieces.
“So many people I’ve run into see a Dogecoin chip in my car or on my desk and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were into Doge.’ Then it’s something new we have in common. The next thing you know, we are playing lawn darts and drinking beers at a backyard barbecue.”
A hobby more than a business
McGrail acknowledges that he barely breaks even on the small orders since he provides free shipping. “I’m not doing this for the money, though,” he said. “My job pays the bills, so as long as I’m not losing money, I’m happy. I get to share my cool tokens with the world, and it’s always exciting to see a random tweet or someone’s stack of chips they just received.”
The business has gained a following within the crypto community. McGrail noted the following cryptocoins link to his website: Jumbucks, Clam, Fibrecoin, Syscoin, Litecoin, Paycoin, Potcoin and Monetary Unit.
He is also working with some poker websites to use the chips as player incentives. “I think that is a match made in heaven, really.”
Posting messages on Twitter and Reddit have proven to be the best way to bring more customers to the website.
“I tried a couple small advertising options, but it didn’t really get the clicks I was expecting,” he said. “I feel like you need to really get one in your hand to truly appreciate the weight and the quality. Having someone other than me recommend them helps as well.”
While he does not wish to release numbers, McGrail said he has hundreds of customers.
“The best part of what I do is when I finally make a new design, and the community loves it. I am always excited when an order comes in, and I am flattered by some of the comments people make.”
“I’ve heard stories from customers who carry a chip around with them in their pocket so that one day when they meet someone else on the street who is into crypto they can hand it to the person and spread the love.”