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A Guide to Mardi Gras Beads and Throws

Mardi Gras float throws
Photo: Zack SMith

Mardi Gras throws are the currency of Carnival season. Although the beads and assorted paraphernalia only hold their value through Fat Tuesday, some throws are worth more than others. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if you’ve indulged in a Mardi Gras drink or two. So, check out this guide to determine which throws you should give up to your neighbor, and which ones are worth chasing down a float.

Mardi Gras beads on fence
Photo: Zack Smith

Small Beads


Small, round, plastic beads are the cheapest throws available, and thus the most common. During your first few parades you’ll be delighted to catch them. However, you will quickly realize their worthlessness.  If you’re not going to repurpose these beads as craft material, drop them off at St. Michael Special School or any of these Mardi Gras bead drop off locations, or give them to a krewe member to reuse.

Handmade Throws


While notable for their distinction from the round beads, small beads with special shapes won’t stand out once you’re off the parade route. Many of the krewes in the smaller parades that roll in the Bywater, French Quarter and Marigny pass out handmade items related to the parade’s themes. They’re often made of paper. While they are amusing in the moment, you will most likely throw them out later.

Doubloons


Doubloons are aluminum coins, customized with the krewe’s name and insignia. These, in addition to beads adorned with a medallion, make excellent keepsakes.
Plastic, Mardi Gras cups are a bonus for their practicality. Long ago, Mardi Gras beads were made of glass. Don’t despair if you can’t catch one of these collectables. There are plenty for sale at the antique shops on Magazine Street. Stuffed Animals, Frisbees and Squeeze Toys are ideal keepsakes for kids.

Large Beads and Specialty Throws

You will understand bead lust when a krewe member unfurls a string of beads the size of your head.
And even the most cynical New Orleanians who leave town during Mardi Gras have glittered Muses shoes, Nyx purses and Zulu coconuts on display in their homes. That’s because they are one-of-a-kind, handmade and the most coveted items of Carnival.

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