NY Coffee Cup

Second only to my first, MOST favorite thing, actual coffee, the NY City Coffee Cup is my next  favorite non-human thing on the planet.

New York Coffee Cup

I LOVE this Cup. I love the design, I love the origins of it.  


The Cup That Launched a Thousand Sips.


Every city needs a symbol. In its coffee cup, New York has something that’s both genuinely unique and almost timeless. When Greek immigrants arrived in New York in the early part of the last century, they brought their coffee culture along with them, giving birth to the city’s ubiquitous Greek diners and sidewalk pushcarts. In 1963, the Sherri Cup Company set out to produce a to-go coffee cup that would appeal to the Greek vendors. Marketing director Leslie Buck dreamed up a motif that included blue-and-white colors from the flag of Greece. His customer-friendly message, WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU, was printed in Greek-style letters, adorned with a trio of steaming, mustard-yellow cups, flanked by ancient “Anthora” urns, and framed with a Greek Key pattern. No one, before or since, has been able to capture, by accident or design, the city’s self-identity. Over nearly half a century, New York has made the improbable cup its own – we have used as many as 15 million of them in a single month. Still so identified with the city, the iconic cups have become standard-issue props on TV shows and motion pictures set in the city. This humble coffee cup is one of the things that makes New York, New York.

I love the fact that the homeless use it to panhandle on the streets of NY (while our Chicago folk stick to plain white styrofoam or a McDonald’s cup–low glam…). I love that an artist in NY re-created the NY Coffee Cup into a leather coin purse; looks just like the real thing, that you can buy, and he donates the money to an orginaization that helps the homeless! I own it, and love it, and feel just a little better because of it!



Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
This city-centric coin purse started off as an exhibit in a New York art gallery, although its origins are much humbler. NYC artist George Skelcher was inspired to create the purse after seeing Bowery beggars using the paper cups to panhandle for change. The design is modeled closely after the original NY Coffee Cup, featuring an accurate rendering of the Greek diner motif. Well-constructed of durable, printed leather, the purse closes with a sturdy brass zipper, measures 4-inches tall, 4-inches across at top, and 2-inches deep.

For my last birthday the boyfriend gave me a set of the ceramic NY Coffee Cups! Recreated in reusable coffee cup material, right down to the seem on the side! If you didn’t know it was ceramic, you’d think it was paper.


New York Coffee Cup
Graham Hill, 2003

The iconic “We Are Happy To Serve You” paper coffee cup was introduced in 1963, and more than 180 million are used in New York City every year. The designer, and founder of the environmentally minded design group, Exceptionlab, worked with both the Sweetheart Cup Company, Inc. and Aid to Artisans to convert the design from disposable to permanent, from paper to ceramic. Manufactured of lead-free earthenware, the cups are microwave and dishwasher safe.


You can buy sleeves of the paper cups online too!


That’s what I want this year–prob every year–(low glam on the b-day presents to be sure…disposable coffee cups–ha). At any rate, the cup design makes me happy. So I started clipping out pictures of it when I see it. And looking for it in movies and on TV. It’s a fun little activity for those of us that might be a little OCD impaired. Check out the next page:

Find The NY Coffee Cup


  1. W. Mark Whitlock said,

    Thanks for all the work and research you put into this post. I’ve always wondered about it. I figured it was one of the Hollywood prop brands (there are cereal, soda, and other brands just used in movies … kind of like Oceanic Airlines).

    The other day, I had breakfast at a local deli designed by a couple of NYC transplants. They use those cups.

    Now I know the whole story.


  2. Dana P Grant said,

    I worked at the cup for many years you have no idea what went into making these wonderfull cups,

    • masnstevy said,

      Thank you for the comment and for being someone who helped put these in the world! I think they are awesome and thereby, so are you!!

  3. NYCKim said,

    FYI: The creator of this cup just passed away yesterday.

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