There aren't really invites per se. You can share something with an email address and they will be able to see it, and then - as G+ opens up - they'll be able to join. It's pretty random, really.
Anyone know how I would know if I had invites to give away?
Hmm. What you describe, I have seen written up as a "back door" way to get your friends in. I think there are (or have been) official invites. I was invited by someone, and I've seen people announcing that they have x number of invites to give away.
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