Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

This 2016 Holiday ornament release is bringing back to North America some whimsy with a French Press pot, Coffee Bag, and quaint penguin, polar bear, and fox to go cups.  But amidst the charm is also a release of the Starbucks 50 states red cup ornaments which reminds us of the adage, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.  The red cup is the iconic symbol of Starbucks’ holiday and the little red cup ornaments have been a favorite for years.  But to make a plain one with just a logo on one side and a shape of each state with their two-letter abbreviation on the other sucks the creative life out of us all.

Collage created by Greg Hilary

Collage created by Greg Hilary

I have yet to hear of any collector who is getting them because they like them.  Most are passing on them altogether or only getting their own state or perhaps some to which they have traveled.  But all I have heard from have panned them as ugly.

In addition to being ugly, its excessive.  In recent years, Starbucks has flooded us with quantities (perhaps over quality) of various products…99 cards one year, 48 the next, the huge dot collection of tumblers and more.

The holidays are expensive enough without adding huge collection purchases.  Now to be fair, I doubt Starbucks expects people to get all them and are just offering options.  And collectors are responsible for their own choices of how far they go with investing in their passion (or OCD).  But if the quantity of states also exhibited some creativity, there would be no complaints here.  (well, maybe some at the check out).

Perhaps I shouldn’t give them ideas as I don’t want another 50 next year.  But even if they remained on the boring side as white cups with the state and name, but also had each state’s flower or bird or something like that, it would be better.  At least some creativity would be expressed.

Again, many of the other ornaments are wonderful and I applaud the nod to earlier years.  Whether you get any or all, I hope your love for Starbucks ornaments continues.

A Special Discovery

Realizing that Japan did in fact have variants for the To Go Cups, I began to search out to acquire the To Go Cups for as far back as I could find.  To my surprise, not 2006 Red To Go Cup Japan 2only did I find the variants, but a completely unique design that nobody, to my knowledge, in the USA knew about!

In 2006 Japan released a Red Cup and a Saucer and Tea Cup.  The Tea Cup I had been made aware of but was suspicious of its origin as it has the “Holiday 2006” in a red script font on the bottom.  No other ornament from Japan has this and this made me quite curious.  But if it was a USA release why were we not seeing it on eBay along with the “wishes” style that was released here?  With the discovery of 2006 Red To Go Cup Japanthis new Red To Cup, all is made clear.  It also has the “Holiday 2006” in red script on the bottom.  The design is sweet showing a family walking their dog and there is a star burst pattern covering the entire cup in a deeper red.

This journey to discover new ornaments has been fun and this one in particular is a special find.  I think we are near the end of finding previously unknown ornaments to the USA market, but who knows?


The Variant Years

I suspect some international standards dictate how the copyright and production information are worded.  And for that reason there are a few years where the To Go Cup ornaments are identical except for French included on the bottom for the USA/Canada ornaments.  And then for the new logo design, the TM/MC and TM differences as noted in another post.  Look over the below infographic to see the variations between the 2009-2012 USA/Canada and Japan ornaments.

Update: Since this was originally posted I discovered that 2008 was also a year with a variation. Here is a quick summary of the red cups release by year and region:

  • 2004 One version
  • 2005 One Version
  • 2006 USA and Japan have unique versions
  • 2007 USA and Japan have unique versions
  • 2008 USA and Japan have same version with bottom stamp variation
  • 2009 USA and Japan have same version with bottom stamp variation
  • 2010 USA and Japan have same version with bottom stamp variation
  • 2011  USA and Japan have same version with bottom stamp variation
  • 2012 USA and Japan have same version with bottom stamp variation
  • 2013 USA and Japan have unique versions
  • 2014 USA and Asia and Europe have unique versions
  • 2015 USA and Asia have unique versions

2009-2012 To Go Cup Comparison


Perhaps you’ve noticed a little symbol at the bottom right hand corner of the Starbucks logo on your ornaments.  Look closely as it’s not always the same.   Sometimes it’s TM/MC, sometimes TM, and sometimes it is ®.  There is a simple answer to this, but it may cause you some collecting headaches if you’re a collector of every variation of an ornament.


2013 Red Cup showing the TM/MC and TM

First off, let’s define the symbols.  TM means Trade Mark, MC is Marque de Commerce, and ® is registered.  When a logo is designed and a company wants to own the rights, it files with the various patent offices of countries to secure the sole ownership.  Once the patent request is accepted the registered mark ® can be used, but until then the TM or MC are used.  MC is for Canada and TM for the USA and other countries.  I am by no means an expert on this, but a bit of a google brought me up to speed enough for this posting.

In 2011 Starbucks changed its logo and we began seeing the TM/MC on the ornaments.  What most of us didn’t realize was that Japan was getting the exact same ornament but the logo mark was just TM.  In all other respects the design was the same.  As of 2015 the patent must have been accepted in the US and Canada and now the new logo uses the registered mark ®.  The 2015 version from Asia still has the TM.

2015 Red To Go Cup Comparison

2015 Red Cup with the ® and TM

So for you collectors who collect variations of the same design, check to see if you have both 2011 and 2012 USA and Japan versions.  In 2011 Starbucks sold the 4-pack of ornaments with three white cups having the brown logo, the old siren and the new siren and then the red cup with the new siren.  In 2012 there was only a red cup produced.  Again, the exact same design in all other respects.  By 2013 we see truly distinct designs for both North America and Japan, so the variation of the TM is not as defining.

When We’re Together…

I Know I’ll Never Fall.  That was one of the statements on the 2012 Starbucks red cups that introduced a number of character images ice skating and gift giving.  It was a beautiful theme of holiday friendship.

2012 Embroidered SetAs is  often the case, Japan received some special ornaments to celebrate the theme.  A set of 6 embroidered ornaments.  They have white felt backsides with the Starbucks name across it, wide gold ribbon hangers, and the fronts are vibrant and stitched beautifully.  I heard that these were part of some sort of “promo”, perhaps  a gift with coffee or product purchase.  I will update this if/when I come across the actual details.

This set is very hard to find (vhtf) and I have searched for a long while.  But it is now part of my collection and I am happy to share with with you.  You can visit the gallery page to see individual images of each ornament.

A Very Special Surprise

I was recently shown a gift pack release from 2013 that came out in Hong Kong.  As true with so many items from Asia, it reveals special details, packaging and surprises.  This pack is part of Starbucks’ theme of that year “Create

2013 Hong Kong Gift Pack

2013 Hong Kong Gift Pack

Wonder~Share Joy” and includes artistic elements of the fall leaves and gift giving.  What I love about this pack is that it just seems “civilized”.  I’m not sure why I arrive at that adjective, it just strikes me as so.  I have created a video to reveal the very special surprise this pack includes.  I hope you enjoy!

You may find the video here.

2007 Red (and White) Cup Comparison

Yet another Red To Go Cup discovered for Japan from 2007.  The bonus was that it came in a two pack with a white cup that was oddly dated 2006. 2007 Japan To Go Cup ReleaseAnd while technically the white cup is different due to the bottom copyright info, the exterior itself is virtually the same.  The red cup is very different.  It plays on the theme of gift giving, but is expressed very different.  Below are the image of side by side comparisons.  I have decided to place and list the 2006 White ornament in the 2007 sequence since it was released in that year.

2007 Red To Go Cup Comparison

2006 White To Go Cup Comparison

2013 Red Cup Comparison

One of the most enjoyable, and at the same time, most frustrating experiences is to discover there is yet another ornament that it seems all were unaware of.  By all, I mean a circle of collectors that congregate on a Facebook collectors group.  We are a fairly large and passionate group of people, and yet we come to realize now and again a yet (to us) undiscovered ornament.  This is as I have shared, my reason for this site and catalog creation.  To put in one place a reservoir of all the ornaments.

All that said, one such new ornament to come to my knowledge is the 2013 Red To Go Cup that was released in Japan.  I suppose because it was only released in Japan, and at that time it was not widely known Japan was getting unique product, is why so many were unaware.

The two versions are very similar and yet very different.  The overall theme of poinsettias, leaves and berries that Starbucks used that year show on both, but in enough of a difference to clearly show a unique ornament design for both countries.   The below image points out the differences from each side.

2013 Red To Go Cup Comparison

2014 Red Cup Comparison

I’m sure that there were some collectors who were aware of this, but it sure caught me and most collectors by surprise!  Until January 2016 most of us had no idea that Starbucks had released THREE versions of the Red To Go Cup in 2014.  Most of us were slightly aware of only two.

Japan continued to have a unique version to themselves along with a second ornament based on the white cup with a red starburst pattern added.  But Starbucks also released one in Europe and Asia as well.  The difference between the Japan and Europe/Asia versions is minor so most people didn’t catch that it was in fact a different version.

The North American version has significant differences as you can see in the side-by-side image below.  Most notably is smaller logo and the inclusion of French for the French-Canadian market.  But the color scheme and accents are a bit darker as well.

The main difference between the Japan and Europe/Asia versions are the little gold stars.

As noted in an earlier post, why the separate releases are made is unknown.  But it certainly keeps us collectors on our toes.

2014 Red To Go Cup Comparison

2015 Red Cup Comparison

Who knows the mind of Starbucks?  Why they decide to release slightly different versions of the same ornament in various parts of the world is unknown.  Yet for a few years they have done just that.

In 2015 it seems they released two versions of the Red To Go Cup, one for North America (USA/Canada) and one for Europe and Asia.  Prior to this year, Japan has had a specific ornament just for them.

What’s interesting, is that the North America version didn’t match the actual paper version of the Red Cups very well.  The ombre is almost imperceptible and there is no drink element boxes on the back.  The Europe/Asia version has a nice ombre effect and does include the drink element boxes.

2015 Red To Go Cup Comparison