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Written by  Professor Barry Goldsmith

If you’d rather spend time sightseeing than shopping, you can buy the most unique souvenirs you can’t get at home, can’t get online, and can’t get anywhere else in the world than the destination you’re visiting. And the price ranges from $12 to $20. They’re in hundreds of cities on six continents so you don’t even don’t have to waste precious time and money hunting for a store - which is almost on every corner. This souvenir is portable and even found near the departure gate at many airports. It’s very practical - you can use it at every meal. And unlike candy, you can enjoy it without gaining weight.
It makes the perfect gift - especially if your aim in gifting is to show-off where you’ve been. And the “giftee” will know you actually bought it on your trip.

In fact, chances are you can even conveniently buy all those gifts at the airport upon leaving the city or country – so you don’t have to travel with bulky packages.   What is this perfect, unique, miracle souvenir?   The Starbucks City Coffee Mug.   

I “tripped” upon this great trip souvenir ten years ago when a friend asked me to buy her a Starbucks Los Angeles mug.  Thinking the request was suited for a “space cadet,” I bought a Starbucks mug with the Griffith Park Observatory on it.  No good deed goes unpunished.  She hated it.  She wanted the Starbucks Los Angeles City Mug – not the Starbucks mug from the 2006 Starbucks Parks Mug collection.  How was I supposed to know that Starbucks mugs came in many different varieties in each city?  Nor was I aware that they’re also collector’s items.

To me, most collectors are outrageously devoted to their hobby – and therefore are a bit eccentric --like my grandmother who collected trolls.  (My first spanking came when I gave her favorite troll a haircut when I six.)

Through the years I’ve discovered that collecting Starbucks mugs isn’t just collecting tchotkes.  It can even be an art -- since many mugs feature a city’s famous building or sculpture such as the Warsaw mug with its famous Chopin statue.  In fact, there’s a Starbucks mug series composed of entirely of art – the Asian “Arsty Starbucks Mugs.”

Here’s a confession, I’ve become a “Mugista.”  (If people who work at Starbucks are called “Barista” – why can’t ardent Starbucks mug collectors be “Mugistas”?)   In fact, I’m proud to display – just a fraction of my collection in the accompanying photo.

Instead of comparing Starbucks mug collecting to tchotkes, this upscale, worldwide phenomenon should be compared to another upscale, passion – wine.   Wine varies by type of grape.  Starbucks mugs vary by different designs and size.  Wine varies by its vintage.  Starbucks mugs differ according to the dates of their design.   And after a vintage is finished -- if it’s a good one – the price soars.  After a Starbucks mug is discontinued, its value soars – as you can see on eBay where some rare Starbucks mugs sell for thousands of dollars.   (Katie, I think this could be a natural break.)

Here’s a quick rundown of few of the different styles and “vintages” of Starbucks mugs:

1. The Dresden City Mug -- From the Starbucks City Mug Collection from 2008.  This style features two depictions:  one under the name – and another on the reverse side.  The Dresden mug is my favorite.  It has the Zwinger (the magnificent 18th-century Rococo palace) on the front.  The reverse features Dresden’s iconic skyline.

2.  Monaco City Mug – From the same Starbucks City Mug Collection showing that even a small elegant and upscale principality has its own Starbucks.

3.  Prague Relief Mug – From Starbucks Relief Mug Collection with White bas-relief and a stark black background – which I call the “Starbucks Wedgewood Collection.”

4.  Buenos Aires International Mug -- Collection from 1994.  Unlike the Starbucks later City Mug collection, this line features just one illustration wrapping around the entire mug.  The name of the city is also very large and wraps around.  The drawback?  As you can see in the photo, you can’t grasp the entire rare beauty in just a single angle – can’t even make out the name.  You either have to turn the mug around or walk around the mug.

5.  France International Mug – Also from the 1994 collection.  Again you can’t see the entire mug, which features Chambord Chateau.  This line of mugs also depicts “countries” in addition to cities  – enabling you to buy two Starbucks mugs in many locations worldwide – the city and the country.

6.  Kyoto Artsy Mug – From the Asian Artsy Mug Collection, circa 2009.

7.  Paris “You Are Here” Mug – the latest collection Starbucks mug series dates from 2014.  The most whimsical of all Starbucks mugs.  Many different symbols representing a city wrap around this mug.  So no matter from what angle you view it  – you get a kooky symbol.  In the case of this Paris mug – you get the Eifel Tower and a French bread. 

8.  Berlin “You Are Here” Christmas Mug -- Besides making the perfect travel gift to bring back for friends and relatives year round – Starbucks mugs also make the perfect Christmas gift with special holiday editions of their City mugs.  Instead of multicolor – this special Christmas mug is in off-white with silver outlines.

9.  Edinburgh Architectural Series Mug – Late 1990s.  A single photo in variations of bluish-gray wrapping around the entire mug.

10.  New York Architectural Series Mug – Similar to #9 except photo is in black & white.

For any readers who are on their way to Italy – there are no Starbucks stores in Italy – yet.  (They’re due to start opening in 2018.)

Let me end where I began – buying a Starbucks mug for a friend.  Ten years later, my Reader Friends, I’m asking you to buy me a Starbucks mug on your next trip.  Thanks.

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