Mardi Gras: Big Bead Business

What's a string of Mardi Gras beads worth? It depends upon who's buying and when they're buying. The market for Mardi Gras beads follows the fundamentals of economics, but with a few twists.

The demand for beads around Mardi Gras is predictable -- like rising demand for heating oil in the winter, according to Dan McMillen, of the Tulane University economics department.

But McMillen says the price for revelers is nothing more than scrambling as the beads are thrown off floats.

Still, they are a big business in New Orleans. Mardi Gras parade riders reportedly spent about $9 million on Carnival trinkets last year.

Those sales are even more impressive in light of the minimal cost to make the beads. Most consist of molded plastic on a piece of string.

Importing the beads is also relatively cheap. Mardi Gras supplier Dom Carlone of Metairie says some beads cost 15 cents each to import, but they're sold for twice that -- up to four dollars a dozen.

Over the years, strings of Mardi Gras beads have been a prized possession for those participating in the pre-lent celebration.

One visitor from New York says he's been to eight Mardi Gras parades and has never seen people go as crazy as they do over the colorful trinkets.