Glass beads did not become a New Orleans Mardi Gras staple until the 1880s, after Anglo-American “krewes” had formed to organize the loose-knit festivities. Legend has it that the first parade participant to use beads was a man dressed up as Santa Claus. The ornamental strands were such a hit that other krewes picked up on the ritual. By 1900, when at least 100,000 tourists a year flocked to the Crescent City for Mardi Gras, beaded throws were ubiquitous.
In 1959, H. Alvin Sharp, a New Orleans ship captain, informed the Rex krewe that he had designed some attractive doubloons that could be coined in aluminum and produced inexpensively in quantities and were safe. Sharp sold Rex on the idea and 83,000 were ordered.
The Rex krew captain at the time wasn’t sure if the rest of the members would like the new throw, so he purposely left off the date on all but a few. That way, any that were left could be used another year if the throws didn’t go over so well. It turned out that his fears and doubts were somewhat unfounded. Between 1960 and 1970, Rex thre 2.75 million doubloons. If you can get one without the date, it’s valuable – hang on to it.