Edward Oliver Greer


Sunday 29 May 2016



The end? How to annoy a collector

Let it not be said that I have a collectors instinct. I collect all sorts of things – and it drives my family mad. One of my many collections is Starbucks mugs. More specifically the 2008 Global Icons series. Let me give you a brief history of the range and my collection before I get to the annoyance. For the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Starbucks wanted decided to create mugs for various Chinese city’s that visitors could pick up. This was not unprecedented as they had produced various designs of city, state and country mugs around the world for years, but this was something new. The design would a brown outline illustration of a local iconic building, person or animal with a coloured background and inside. It did not take long for the design to spread to the USA and Europe and today there are nearly 500 mugs in the range from all over the world.

2013 dealt a major blow to the hundreds of icon muggers. Starbucks replaced the 2008 range in the USA and Canada with a new series of slightly smaller, stylised and overly colourful mugs: the 2013 You Are Here series. Despite many petitions and signatories to keep the icon range alongside, they were gone for good. Around the same time, Starbucks Europe released a YAH for Amsterdam to test the market over here. After half a year, it was discontinued and no further mugs in the series were made for Europe. Icons had survived to live another day.

Fast forward to 2016, and Starbucks open a new store in Johannesburg, South Africa and the story gets interesting. The country mug was an Icon, the city mug was a You Are Here. Icon collectors begin to worry. Shortly after two Indonesian Icons get rereleased after a few years off the market. Icon muggers breath a sigh of relief, perhaps Johannesburg was just another Amsterdam trial? Then news hits, new You Are Here for London, Moscow, Berlin and Munich. This doesn’t look good for the Icons. In the last week, other cities in Europe have rolled out YAH mugs including Paris, Vienna and Copenhagen. Starbucks opened a new store in Nantes which is selling city and country mugs using the Johannesburg combination of YAH and Icon.

So where does this leave the Icons? We’ve had no official word from Starbucks on the issue but it looks like Icon city mugs are on the way out at least. Maybe the county ones will continue, I hope so. In Asia and Oceania, Icons are still the order of the day with no You Are Here’s in sight, but who can tell how long that will last.

International mugs

When I went out to China a few years ago, I picked up the Beijing mug – this was my trigger. Everywhere I have visited since I have picked up the icon mugs of the country and city as well as trading the British Icons to try and fill the backlog of places I visited before I started this collection. When we went to Budapest last month, Gary and Peter (my Hungarian friends and former colleagues who live there) were amazed that while looking at the sights with them, I slipped into a Starbucks to buy mugs. They don’t understand my collecting tendencies. Soph is travelling to France in a few weeks and I have given her a shopping list of my missing French Icons; they annoyingly released the Lille Icon only a few months after I was there. As such, I have a nice record of where I have travelled in the form of uniformly styled mugs. You Are Here’s threaten this. So let’s hope that if they do retire the city icons that they keep the country ones. The only issue now is do I collect the new mugs for places I’ve visited?



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