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Where is the ' coming from?


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My error: 

You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near 'key FROM applications WHERE key = '0188f'' at line 1




		function randomNum()
			$random = substr(md5(rand(5000,300000)), -5);
			$query = mysql_query("SELECT key FROM applications WHERE key = $random") or die(mysql_error());

			//make sure it doesn't already exist
			if(mysql_num_rows($query) > 0)
				return $random;


I simply cannot seem to figure out what is happening...I've tried many solutions, but all seem to fail.

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