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Mardi Gras Doubloons as Collectibles
Mardi Gras doubloons were first used in 1960, and they rapidly became collectible. The doubloon made its debut with the Rex parade on Mardi Gras Day. Historically, it originated in 1959 because it had to be produced before being used. The doubloon was created by H. A. Sharpe, who took several versions to the captain of the Rex organization, which marked the beginning of a whole type of collectible.
For completeness, it should be mentioned that a few doubloons were minted prior to the ones mentioned above, but not thrown to the people attending a parade. Nor were doubloons made on a regular basis prior to the Rex 1960 doubloon.
A typical doubloon has the name of the organization and its emblem struck on one side and the theme of the year on the other side. Even organizations that have no parade have a ball; hence, there is an annual theme.
Soon after the debut of the Rex doubloon, other organizations adopted the practice of using doubloons. The aluminum versions of these doubloons are often tossed to the crowd from a parade float. Since they are free for the person watching the parade and commemorate the parade well, they are excellent keepsakes.
Basic Aluminum Mardi Gras Doubloons
Mardi Gras doubloons usually are struck on aluminum blanks, and they typically have a diameter of thirty-nine millimeters. They may be uncolored, or dyed in a color the organization chooses. It is not uncommon to have a parade throw doubloons of several different colors.
The diameter is typical, but other sizes can be found. Some parades throw mini doubloons. One, Orpheus, throws a rather large doubloon.
The thickness of a typical doubloon is fifteen gauge, but thicker doubloons can be found.
Special Aluminum Doubloons
Occasionally, Mardi Gras doubloons are thicker than the normal fifteen gauge. Special doubloons often denote a celebrity grand marshal, a captain, a lieutenant, or the king or queen of the parade. Ten-gauge doubloons are normal for such special dignitaries. However, it is up to each organization to decide if such special doubloons are to be struck, and, indeed, if any doubloons are to be struck.
Doubloons With Special Designs
In an effort to stand out, many parades today have special shapes for their doubloons. It may be elaborate, such as a castle, or simpler, such as a shield.
What Collectors Need to Know
First, some organizations do not put on a parade. Yet they often have doubloons. Finding these free is unlikely.
On the other hand, not every parade throws doubloons. The doubloons cost the members of the organizations money to have produced, and some have opted out.
Initially, the doubloon was very popular. Then, as aluminum rose in cost, plastic cups and plastic emblems on special pairs of beads served well, and doubloons became harder to find. Now, there is a renewed interest in doubloons, but not as great of an interest as once was. So, few parades throw doubloons.
Since some organizations are secretive about the details of their parades, it is not always announced whether doubloons will be thrown in advance, and even if the parade makes them available to the members, few buy them to throw.
A dual doubloon often has a high relief emblem of the organization in a second color, often silver or gold. Since there are two colors, these doubloons are called duals.
Certainly, silver doubloons are not thrown at parades. Most are fine silver, but other purities of silver in doubloons are found. There is no standard other than what an organization imposes upon itself. While many contain one Troy ounce of fine silver, many others do not.
These make great collectibles, but also require care. They should be handled by the edges and placed in protective coverings to prevent physical and environmental damage. Treat silver doubloons as you would treat uncirculated coins.
Bronze and Related Doubloons
Bronze doubloons can be quite shiny or can be dull, often depending on whether the doubloon in bronze or antique bronze. These are much heavier than aluminum doubloons. A few copper doubloons also exist. These are highly collectible and will usually carry a premium.
Some bronze doubloons are also high relief doubloons. These high relief doubloons show the features well, but protecting them can be difficult, since many capsules are too thin to hold them.
Oxidized Silver Doubloons
One type of doubloon that has a great appearance is the oxidized silver doubloon. The name is a bit misleading. Usually, an oxidized silver doubloon is a bronze doubloon that has a layer of oxidized silver on its surface.
Unfortunately, buying oxidized silver doubloons can be problematic. I had a chance to purchase quite a few of these at a good price, but I rejected several of them because the bronze was showing through too much due to excessive wear. If the doubloon has been properly handled it should remain beautiful and show a nice silver finish.
Multicolor and Tricolor Mardi Gras Doubloons
A multicolor doubloon is a bronze doubloon with coloring. One might think that such a doubloon is painted, but I have one that lost its color. Surprisingly, a colorful, thin plate had been placed on a bronze doubloon. When the glue broke down an entire side of the doubloon lost its color. The plate fell off.
Some multicolor doubloons have one colored side, while other multicolor doubloons have color on both sides. The ones with one side colored show the bronze quite well on the other side of the doubloon.
A tricolor doubloon is a doubloon that has three colors.
The versatile bronze doubloon is the base for the bronze doubloon, the oxidized silver doubloon, and the multicolor doubloon. These are collectively called "heavies" by doubloon collectors.
Some parading organizations have commercial groups that populate one or more of their floats. This is a way of making the parade affordable. These commercial groups usually toss things to the people in the crowd with the company’s name on them. This includes doubloons.
In fact, some commercial doubloons are coupons. One example of commercial doubloons that were also coupons is the Popeye’s Fried Chicken doubloons of years ago.
Small Organization Doubloons
Some groups in a parade may throw their own doubloons. This is especially true of motorcycle and horseback groups.
On Mardi Gras Day, trucks follow several parades. Those who ride the trucks also decorate them. Many of these truck riders become organized and the group produces its own doubloons.
One problem with the doubloons above is I doubt anyone has a list of all possible doubloons to collect.
Marching clubs also can have doubloons. The Pete Fountain Half Fast Marching Club doubloons are even listed in the doubloon guide. Pete Fountain doubloons are quite collectible.
Doubloons Have Spread Out
Doubloons can be found in many communities. I have seen doubloons from the Mississippi Gulf Coast parades, and from Mardi Gras parades in Mobile, Alabama. These are difficult to get information on, since the doubloon guide covers only New Orleans and its suburbs.
Collectors Should Specialize
To collect all Mardi Gras doubloons would be a daunting task. One might consider specializing by collecting only those doubloons that are from a few parades, or perhaps those doubloons of a certain type. Setting too lofty goals can lead to discouragement as the task quickly proves too extensive to accomplish.