Trash or Treasure: Roulette wheel proves an enigma

By Khristi Zimmeth
| Special to The Detroit News

“I’ve done hundreds of hours of research and still can’t find this,” Jerry Reedy said of the large and unusual vintage wooden roulette wheel he brought to a recent appraisal session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

Even his way of acquiring the piece was unusual. “I traded an antique brass cash register for it about a year ago” he explained to appraiser Brian Thomczek of his item, which he referred to in his original email as an “amazing old west traveling roulette wheel with an original traveling case.” He also added that it was in fine condition. “All numbers and pegs are brass and the wheel still spins and is remarkably smooth,” he explained.

The large wooden wheel features numbers around the perimeter and a custom-made case but has proven frustrating when it comes to gathering information, Reedy said. On a mission to find out more about it since he traded for it, he has even contacted fellow collectors during his search, including one who had a former gambling museum in Kentucky and said he had a similar wheel but still came up with little solid information. While he found similar wheels, “no one has ever seen anything like the case,” Reedy explained to the appraiser.

Unfortunately, Thomczek hadn’t ever seen one either. “I think it would qualify as folk art because it’s very possibly homemade,” Thomczek told Reedy. “Either way, it would look very cool hanging on a wall.” At a general interest auction, he said it would bring somewhere between $300 and $500, adding that the case could be worth even more than the wheel itself.

Thomczek added that a general auction probably wouldn’t be the best route for selling the unusual piece, however. “This is a very specialized item,” he explained, adding that he’d contact other collectors or even museums in Las Vegas or Reno to see if they would want to acquire it.

Reedy continued to research the piece even after the Troy appraisal, adding that he did contact representatives at gambling museums in both Reno and Vegas, who were able to give him more information. “They both identified it as a traveling Prohibition speakeasy wheel,” he said, adding that also gave him a value of $2,500 to $4,000, but that they weren’t interested in purchasing it. “They wanted me to donate it,” he said.

He plans to hang onto it for now. “I had someone tell me it’s so unique that you don’t know what it would go for if you sell it,” he explained. “I’ll probably put it on eBay and see what happens.”

Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Please send a photo of your item, how you acquired it, and any story behind it that you are aware of to [email protected] We will be in touch if you are chosen for an appraisal. We are also accepting collectors to be featured in our regular Collectors Spotlight – if you are interested, let us know what you collect and why and send a few photos of your collection. If you are selected, we will be in touch for more additional information.

About this item

Item: Roulette wheel

Owned by: Jerry Reedy

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $300 and up

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