Our friend Yehuda Kleinman has more Mardis Gras collectibles that anyone I know. Since I am mostly ignorant of this stuff, I asked him to write an overview for the blog. I may not be able to tell a doubloon from a macaroon, but Yehuda certainly can, and here he is to tell you all about it.
New Orleans, Louisiana never misses a chance to have a good time.
No matter what time of year or what occasion there is always an opportunity for a parade and a celebration. The frequent parades occur in honor of memorable occasions or holidays. The well-orchestrated parades, which are usually along specific routes, consist caravans of multiple floats and trucks, all of them heavily decorated in accordance with various themes.
The annual culmination of all celebration occurs at the Mardi Gras parades, which originate from the city's rich French heritage.
The parades are organized by well-established Krewes, each of which makes its own float, often based on a theme. Throughout the years themes have tended to reflect the social interests and personalities of the time.
Fortunately, New Orleans also understands that swag is a must at any celebration! And the swag often reflects those same themes!
Historically, the various Krewes have given out tokens to parade-goers. The Krewes create the tokens to celebrate the Mardis Gras parades and the post-parade private events held by the individual Krewes.
The most well-known tokens thrown at New Orleans celebrations are strands of multicolored beads. They can be seen by the thousands lining the routes of the parades, trapped in the branches of the trees lining the paths which the parades follow.
Anyone who attends a parade can easily go home with as many strands of beads as he or she can carry. Some beads are even designed with a Star Wars bent.
|R2-D2 beads dating from 2002|
However, the more fortunate parade-goer will come home with the more impressive "doubloons" that are distributed at Mardi Gras. The doubloons are coins, typically of the same circumference as a Spanish doubloon. Their size is also reminiscent of the American silver dollar, poker chips, and vintage Kenner collector coins!
Krewe members throw the doubloons from the parade floats as well as hand them out as they walk among the parade goers.
The doubloons themselves are made out of varying types of metal and can be found in multiple colors and variations. The vast majority are struck from aluminum, many by Osborne Coinage, the outfit that, in 1985, struck approximately half of Kenner's Star Wars collector coins. The doubloons can also be found in a variety of colors, created by anodizing the aluminum. The most common color is silver, though may were anodized into purple, green, and gold variants -- the signature colors of Mardi Gras. Rarer are those doubloons anodized in red or blue. Some even feature multiple colors. Doubloons that are made out of metals of heavier gauge are known as "heavies." Still others are made of metals such as pewter, bronze, and even pure silver.
The design used for the doubloon typically also appears on a badge, which is the same size as the doubloon and has a small ring at the top, allowing the badge to be worn on a ribbon.
The aluminum doubloons are the type that are most often thrown from floats and given out at parades. The variants made from finer metals are usually given out at the balls and private Krewe celebrations that take place after the parade. The badges, like the doubloons made from metals other than aluminum, are not distributed to the public; they are internal items reserved for the individual Krewes.
When Star Wars took the world by storm in 1977, its impact was reflected on the Mardi Gras doubloons. Many were created bearing Star Wars imagery on their reserve sides.
The earliest Mardi Gras doubloons to show a Star Wars influence were handed out in 1979. (The lag time between the movie's release and the appearance of the images on the Mardi Gras doubloons is consistent with the amount of time required to design and produce the doubloons.)
Aside from the very recent doubloons issued by garrisons of the 501st Legion, the most recent doubloon bearing Star Wars imagery dates to 2002.
The Star Wars imagery that appears on the reverse of the doubloon can constitute either a part of the design or the entire design. The designs reflecting current social themes often show a mix of characters from many entertainment genres on the same doubloon, making for interesting and eclectic images. In fact, one of the 1979 doubloons features both a representation of Mickey Mouse and an X-Wing fighter, likely the first time that Disney and Star Wars were seen together on the same product!
If that's not enough to discombobulate your licensing sensors, many doubloons commit the sin of mixing Star Wars and Star Trek imagery; some even pull in imagery from properties whose titles don't include the word "star," like the Transformers.
The doubloon designs vary from cartoonish mashups to very detailed and accurate portraits.
Below is a list of all of the Star Wars-themed Mardis Gras doubloons which I have confirmed or believe to exist. If anyone knows of any others, please feel free to mention them in the comments.
? - likely exists, but unconfirmed
a - aluminum uncolored
b - aluminum blue anodized
g - aluminum gold anodized
gr - aluminum green anodized
p - aluminum purple anodized
s - aluminum red anodized
os - aluminum with an antique oxidized silver finish
H - heavy (thick coin)
B - bronze
D - dual colored
BA - badge
S - .999 silver
Krewe: Bards of Bohemia
Slogan: "Conquerors All"
Star Wars: Vader, full body, on left of side 1
Variations: a, g, p, D, B, S
Krewe: Mystic Stripers Society
Slogan: Thursday Night at the Movies
Star Wars: X-Wing featured along with King Kong, Mickey Mouse, etc. on side 1
Variations: a, g(?), os(?), B(?), S(?)
Krewe: Truck No. 3
Slogan: "Confused Couples Carnival Club"
Star Wars: Satirical take on R2-D2 on side 1
Variations: a, g, gr, p, B(?), M(?), S(?)
Slogan: "In the Seventies"
Star Wars: R2-D2 featured with and Richard Nixon and others on side 1
Variations: g, b, BA, B(?), H(?), M(?), os(?), S(?)
Krewe: Le Krewe Mystique de la Capitale
Star Wars: X-Wing fighter and Death Star on side 1
Variations: a, g, gr, p, r, S, H(?)
Slogan: "35th Anniversary"
Star Wars: R2-D2 featured on right of side 1
Variations: g, gr, os, BA, B, S(?)
Krewe: Krewe of Carroliton
Slogan: "Cinema Classics"
Star Wars: Star Wars mentioned on film strips along with other notable films on side 1
Variations: a, g, gr, B, M, BA, Hg, Hb
Krewe: Krewe of Houmas
Slogan: "Space Fantasies"
Star Wars: Yoda and R2-D2 featured with the Starship Enterprise on side 1
Variations: g, gr, p, M, B(?), S(?)
Krewe: The Krewe of Little Rascals
Slogan: "Little Rascals Salute Space Adventures"
Star Wars: R2-D2 on left beside Han Solo-like figure on side 1
Variations: a, g, gr, p
Krewe: Krewe of Mid-City New Orleans
Slogan: "Space Fantasies"
Star Wars: Yoda is featured beside Optimus Prime and the Starship Enterprise on side 1
Variations: a, g, gr, p, os, B, M, S
Slogan: Nereids Cinema Classics
Star Wars: Darth Vader with Rocky, Batman symbol, etc. on side 1
Variations: g, gr, p, H(?)
Side 1 (Left) / Side 2 (Right)_______________________________________________________________________________________
Krewe: Krewe of Aladdin
Slogan: "Movies of the 20th Century"
Star Wars: R2-D2 featured along with Lawrence of Arabia, Moses, etc. on side 1
Variations: a, g, Hg with M reverse
Krewe: 501st Bast Alpha Garrison
Star Wars: Stormtrooper riding alligator on side 1
Variations: 2015 - a, 2016 - a