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The Anthora is a design for a disposable paper cup for coffee that has become iconic of New York City daily life.


The cup was originally designed by Leslie Buck of the Sherri Cup Company in 1963,[1] to appeal to Greek-owned coffee shops in New York City, and was later much copied by other companies.[2] Sherri was later acquired by the Solo Cup Company,[1] which in turn was acquired by Dart Container in 2012.[3] The name is said to come from Buck's Eastern European-accented pronunciation of the word amphora.[1]

Sales of the cup reached 500 million in 1994 at its peak,[4] and fell to about 200 million cups annually by 2005.[1] At its peak, up to 15 million cups were used monthly.[2] One New York Times writer in 1995 called the Anthora "perhaps the most successful cup in history".[4] Solo halted production in 2006,[5] but continued to license the design.[6] By 2007, it was mentioned in passing in a New York Times television review as "one of those endangered artifacts".[7] Production restarted in 2015.[8]

Buck never received royalties from his design, but as a salesman he was well-remunerated for the product's success. When he retired from Sherri Cup Company in 1992, he was presented with 10,000 Anthoras printed with a testimonial inscription. After Buck's death in 2010, a New York Times writer described the motto on the cup as having "welcome intimations of tenderness, succor and humility".[1]


The original Anthora depicts an image of an Ancient Greek amphora, a Greek key design on the top and bottom rim, and the words "WΣ ARΣ HAPPY TO SΣRVΣ YOU" in angular script intended to evoke ancient Greek epigraphy and using Σ to represent the letter E. The blue and white colors were inspired by the flag of Greece. The original capacity was 10 oz.; 8 ounce versions are also made.

There are also variant knock-offs; a popular one produced by Premier Cup portrays a discus-thrower;[2] others depict the Parthenon, a harpist, and so on, and have variant slogans such as "We Are Pleased To Serve You".[8][9]


Ceramic Anthora cup
Side view with amphora, showing the skeuomorphic seam and rounded lip

The Anthora has been displayed in the Design Department of the Museum of Modern Art, in an exhibition at the Clark Art Institute on "The Persistence of Classicism",[10][2] and in an article on "A History of New York in 50 Objects".[11] It has been featured in various movies and television, where it is used to "evoke Gotham at a glance".[1][12] In 2003, Graham Hill of the design group ExceptionLab designed a ceramic replica reproducing the construction of the paper cup as a skeuomorph, converting it from disposable to permanent;[13] it is sold at the Museum of Modern Art shop.[14] In 2004, NBC commissioned a special edition for the 2004 Summer Olympics, including its peacock logo and the Olympic rings.[15]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f Fox, Margalit (April 29, 2010). "Leslie Buck, Designer of Iconic Coffee Cup, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Gill, John Freeman (June 26, 2005). "Urban History to Go: Black, No Sugar". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  3. ^ "Dart Container Closes on Acquisition of Solo Cup Company" (PDF) (Press release). Dart Container. May 4, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
  4. ^ a b McKinley, Jesse (October 15, 1995). "F.Y.I. – A Cup of Inspiration". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  5. ^ "The life, death and rebirth of "New York's Coffee Cup" Anthora". Hopes&Fears. January 6, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  6. ^ Geier, Stephanie (June 21, 2017). "NYC Fun Facts: The Story Behind the Famous NYC Greek Coffee Cups". Untapped New York. Retrieved December 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (May 27, 2007). "To Sleep, Nay, Perchance to Stay Wide Awake". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  8. ^ a b LaMarche, Una. "How to start a panic over coffee cups". The Outline. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  9. ^ Popik, Barry. "Barry Popik". Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  10. ^ Puşcaşiu, Voica (February 15, 2015). "Design, It's Not What It Looks Like!" (PDF). International Review of Social Research. 5 (2): 117. doi:10.1515/irsr-2015-0010.
  11. ^ Roberts, Sam (September 2, 2012). "A History of New York in 50 Objects". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  12. ^ Lokker, Brian (June 18, 2020). "New York's Iconic Anthora Coffee Cup on TV". Coffee Crossroads. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  13. ^ "The World's Most Famous Paper Cup Replicated in CERAMIC". ExceptionLab. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "New York Coffee Cup". MoMA Design Store. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  15. ^ Martinez, Jose (July 8, 2004). "Playing Games with a cup we love". New York Daily News. p. 2. Retrieved December 19, 2022.

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