Monday, April 16, 2012

Antique Caro Dealing Shoes, the Real Deal

If you happen to be a collector of casino dealing shoes you should definitely have at least one antique Caro shoe in your collection. I happen to be fortunate enough to have two of them. Both are six-deck chemin de fer shoes, both are made from mahogany, but they are not identical.

The first shoe has green hardware and a handle at the rear. I bought it in a small antique store in France, in a small town, and was told that it came from Monte Carlo. I have no way of knowing if that's actually the case, but if true it would be one of three shoes that I own, that were supposedly used at the Casino Monte Carlo. I actually sent a few emails to the Casino, along with pictures, but have never received any replies. I guess the people that work there now were not even born at the time those shoes were supposedly used there so I guess they don't really care and probably couldn't tell me much, anyway. I was just hoping they might have archival photos that might show various shoes that were used at their casino throughout the years. I guess I'll never be able to verify the provenance of those shoes without going there in person. Even then I wouldn't count too much on their cooperation. So, without a proper way to check the provenance I cannot really take those claims for granted, for the time being, but nevertheless, I still like owning all those shoe because they are definitely genuine antiques and when I touch them I really feel like I have a piece of gambling history in my hands.

I'm not sure how rare these Caro shoes are, but I've only come across two of them, and I bought both. I just couldn't resist, especially because the first shoe came with the original six decks of cards. I bought the whole thing for 28 Euros, which was a bargain. The cards alone are worth more than what I paid for the whole thing.

Antique Caro French Dealing Shoe
The other shoe is almost identical to the one above, except that it doesn't have a handle and the hardware is black. The beauty is in the details and I'll use the second shoe to show you what I mean.

These shoes are not some rinky dink products made by the lowest bidder in China. They're the real deal. As with any antiques, the only way to really experience the full appreciation for the quality and the craftsmanship that went into making these objects, is to spend some time handling them. Since I don't have a showroom where I could invite people to see these objects I'll try to do my best with pictures and descriptions. Let's have a look at the second shoe, shall we?

Caro Baccarat Casino Dealing Shoe
The body of the shoe is made from mahogany and the hardware is mostly bass. I tested the metal parts with a magnet and discovered that the faceplate is made from a piece of ferrous sheet metal. I imagine they decided not to use brass for the faceplate because it is thin.

The next detail is the maker's name, which is marked as G. Caro, from Paris, 252 Boulevard Voltaire. The word JEUX is French for "games" and I don't know if it is part of the maker's name. There is a French company called Caro Developpement, bu t I believe it is a different company that has nothing to do with the old Caro company, except that they are also in the business of making gaming equipment. I tried to find out for sure, so I went to their web site and send them an email (written in French, to make it easier for them) but I guess the person in charge of answering their emails must be a close relative of the person in charge of email correspondence at Casino Monte Carlo. Up to this day I have not heard back as much as a whisper, so I can't tell you anything for sure, but I do believe that the old Caro company has been out of biz for a very long time. But all that's history and I'm not a historian, so I shouldn't speculate too much. What interests me are details about these shoes.

Jeux G. Caro Paris
One detail that makes these shoes look and feel like high-end products is the ratchet mechanism for the braked roller. Some shoes are still made this way, but they are not common. The ratchet mechanism really makes this shoe feel special.

Antique Wooden Casino Dealing Shoe
If you ever get the chance to spend some time around a Rolls Royce, take a moment of that time to open and close the hood. Don't look at the engine, just listen to the sound of the hood closing. How should I best put it? The hood of a VW doesn't produce the same sound. It is the sound of the hood closing, amongst other things, that makes a Rolls Royce feel like a tank. And you get the same kind of feeling when you put six decks of cards into one of those shoe and put the roller behind the cards and listen to the ratchet mechanism produce a sound that's unlike anything you've ever heard any other dealing shoe do. This shoe sounds like a musical instrument and feels like it's made for people who drive up to a casino in a Rolls Royce. And once the cards and the roller are in, you place the cover on top of the shoe and lock it in place, which is yet another handling procedure that makes a serious sound that makes this shoe feel like a tank. If there is such thing as a Rolls Royce of dealing shoes, perhaps this one is it.

There is another uncommon feature. This roller doesn't simply roll down the slanted ramp. There are two metal rails running down the ramp and the roller has four miniature brass wheels, an uncommon feature that makes the roller look like a miniature vehicle running down a track. The roller is also weighted with led inserts at both sides. The wheels don't really spin as well as they should, but I'm sure they worked fine at the time.

Dealing Shoe Roller
The detail that distinguishes this shoe as a chemin de fer shoe is the plaque at the side. The plaque also bears the name G. Caro.

Baccarat Chemin de Fer Rules
One bad thing about this shoe is that it might be totally useless nowadays. The reason is the interior width of the shell, which is narrower than any of the dealing shoes made today. In other words, you cannot put standard poker-size cards inside this shoe. All the cards shown in my photos are old French cards that were noticeably smaller than standard playing cards produced today.


Nick said...

Gorgeous shoes - Solid pieces of gambling history that's sure to last centuries.

Jackouille said...

Very interesting post Mr pink.

I own one of these shoe, as you say it's beautiful piece of gambling history.

As you can see in the pictures, the "stickers" where is write the manufacturer name is little different and seem newest than yours. It's write on it "Jeux de precision" and not only "Jeux".

G.Caro was bought in 2005 by the second biggest casino group: "Tranchant". So, it has nothing to do with the old company but the name has been conserved.

G.Caro manufactured their shoes, roulettes, tables, billard etc etc at the 252 boulevard Voltaire from about 1936 to the end of the sixties. After this period they moved to Vierzon, another town.

You can approximatly estimate the age of your shoe.

There is one detail who retained my attention, you say the the interior width of the shell is narrower than actual shoe. Because mine is bigger than "normal" shoe. (see the cards in the pictures)

The cards I have, are the standard today format for blackjack (and maybe baccarat) in actuall casinos.

In France you can legaly gamble in two places:

-and what we call "Cercles de jeux" (sorry I don't know how to translate this term)

A friend of mine who dealt in Cercles de jeux, tell me that birdge sized cards were used in Cercles de jeux and poker sized cards in casinos for poker game. So, it's maybe the case for blackjack and baccarat...

Sorry, I will post pictures later because my battery is low.

Mr. Pink said...

Thank you for your comments, Jackouille.

So, my shoe could not have been made before 1936. There are some serial numbers on those shoes. The serial number of the shoe with black hardware is 11. The number appears at the bottom of the shell, on the roller and on the cover. The shoe with green hardware is packed up right now and it's not convenient for me to get to it, so I don't know that serial number.

Just a quick clarification. Bridge size cards are narrower than poker cards. However, these shoes are for cards that are also shorter than bridge size or poker size cards. The only cards that fit are old French cards, which makes sense, since the shoes are also French made.

Jackouille said...

So here is the pictures of my own shoe:

As you can see the parts of the shoe are screwed, not only glued:

The "sticker" of my shoe, seem to be newer than yours Mr Pink:

All the serial numbers have been scratched, I don't know why, maybe the shoe has been stolen or maybe the shoe has been sell by the official casino to some illegal casino and reported stolen to the authorities. But as you see we can dicern on the last picture the number 72 (I think):

Here is one card faceup, you can see "Marianne" printed on, which means it's an offcial casino card. Still today, all the cards used in French casinos have the Marianne printed on their faces:

And finally a picture to compare the bridge sized card (on the left), poker sized card (center) and French casino blackjack cards on the right (the cards that goes in my shoe):

Still today, the same back is used in French casino.

A last one with 3 types of cards superposed:

Mr Pink, can you post a picture of your narrower cards please? It intrigues me.


LaShays Crafts said...

Hello there, I am not a collector of this venue but I am stumped and looking for answers, I came across a Jeux G. Caro dealing shoe. From the information you have posted in your blogs you are far more knowledgeable about these items than I. Doing the light research such as goggle, ebay etc. your blog keeps popping up when I type in Jeux G. Caro antique dealing shoe in any search engine. I purchased this in Kansas from a gentlemen who was a dealer in Vegas many years ago. It is very similar to one posted in your blog, with the green metal top, brass hardware and same logo with the Jeux G. Caro Paris 252 Voltaire address. There is a # 20 stamped into the bottom of the piece and in the sliding piece that moves the cards down. It also has- progress B te SGDG FRANCE imprinted in the top hardware where the top locks in. What year would this be from? What is the value? I would place the condition as fair. There are scratches in the lacquer finish, a missing screw on the side, split in the woos on the side and also a split where the card would be pulled out. No missing pieces or chunks of the wood and probable would go back together restored with a wood clamp and wood glue with being noticed very little but i am also not a carpenter. Your impute would be grateful on this item that is intriguing and baffling me.
Thank you for your time
L Swem in
SW Missouri

Mr. Pink said...

Hello, LaShays Crafts.

Unfortunately, I don't have any additional information available at this time. Jackouille, who posted comments, says the company was located at 252 boulevard Voltaire from about 1936 to the end of the 1960s.

Unknown said...

I purchased this in Kansas from a gentlemen who was a dealer in Vegas many years ago. It is very similar to one posted in your blog. so keep it for more post.