History of Doubloons
The doubloon has been one of Mardi Gras most treasured keepsakes since it was introduced by the Rex Krewe founder, H. Alvin Sharp, in 1964.
But when the doubloons were first introduced to the festivities in the 1960s, Sharp didn’t know if the idea would go over too well, so he left the date off of the coins. This is the only time in the doubloons’ parade history that the date has not been engraved making them one of the most sought after and extremely valuable Mardi Gras souvenirs.
The Krewes have also decided to call their doubloons other names as well, to better fit the Krewe’s base motif. The Pharaohs call their doubloons “Cairo Coins,” and still another Krewe calls their coins, “Drachma’s.”
The doubloon is one of the most enduring symbols of Mardi Gras. These highly detailed, brightly-colored coins are thrown from the floats and many have become collector items. Doubloons are stamped with the different carnival club logo on one side and the parade’s theme on the other, so that no two clubs have doubloons that are exactly alike, and each year they are different, too. They are minted in various colors, and from different materials, like aluminum, silver, bronze and now plastic.
Anodized coins are also thrown. These are coins that have been dipped in color. For example the krewe of Mid City in 1998 had doubloons of purple, green, gold, with the king’s doubloon in blue. All told, there are somewhere between four and five thousand designs that have been minted, over the years since and who knows how many million doubloons are out there now.
Doubloons aren’t just thrown in New Orleans. They are also minted and thrown in Mobile as well. The parading mystic societies there, have been throwing the coins since the mid 1960′s. The infant Mystics were the first krewe in Mobile to throw doubloons. Many non-parading mystics have coins each year as well.
Trading doubloons have also become a popular hobby among Mardi Gras devotees. Many people find a value in finding doubloons from certain years, featuring certain designs or colors.
In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina, doubloons soared in popularity. This was because many people who live in New Orleans resell their doubloons to be resold and recycled for the next Mardi Gras season. Once the levees broke, many houses and entire doubloon collections were underwater and did not get back in the resupply chain, thereby producing a shortage. Since many Krewes did not parade and people didn’t spend the money on throws like in previous years, the resupply was shrunk. Mardi Gras many doubloon vendors, including Mardigrasday.com, sold out of their doubloon inventory weeks before Mardi Gras.
Plastic coins became the most popular item replacing doubloons long standing history.
New to Mardi Gras, metallic plastic coins from China offer the look of authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras doubloons without the cost. This official color triage of royal purple, majestic green, and rich gold coins are embossed with the same design on all of them and are 1 1/2 inches in diameter and have quickly replaced the forever alloy doubloon with a plastic imitation.
Traditional Krewes in New Orleans continue to use the alloy stamped coins and they are more popular now than ever. Doubloons are a part of Mardi Gras. Many people have attached happy memories to catching them along the parade route in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.