Star Trek fans who saw Star Trek Beyond in theaters this summer were able to beam up -- and take home -- a large souvenir Beyond cup from Coca Cola with a drink purchase. This newest cup continued a long tradition of plastic Star Trek themed cups being available at local convenience stores and movie theaters. For some fans (like us), these cups become collectibles both because of the unusual art and images that are featured and thanks to the good times the cups represent -- as they were usually available around the premiere of an exciting new Star Trek TV show or film. This article, we take a look at some of our favorite cups from the past decades:
In 1986, Stop-N-Go Foods, Inc. offered fans visiting their stores four different plastic cups with original art from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Making these cups extra special was their futuristic glow-in-dark capability.
A year later, 7-11 stores sold five different ICEE cups with an iced drink featuring the characters of the then-new Star Trek: The Next Generation. The cup with Geordi LaForge, Deanna Troi and Data has an especially nice and unusual image of the trio. The ICEE cups would get a mention in 2009’s Up Till Now William Shatner autobiography. 1991 was the 25th anniversary not only of the premiere of Star Trek’s first episode “The Man Trap” but also of the iconic frozen slushy Slurpee. To celebrate both anniversaries, 7-11 stores again offered plastic Star Trek cups, this time with classic crew, alien and Next Generation designs.
When The Next Generation crew made their first big screen debut with Star Trek Generations in 1994, the premiere was accompanied by four different 32oz. cup designs from Jack-In-The-Box restaurants. The movie collector’s cups were available if fans “galaxy sized” their meals.
Perhaps one of the most interactive of the plastic cups campaigns was the eight offered by Pizza Hut during 1993 and 1994, four each from the TOS and TNG eras. On top of each cup was a small plastic toy replica of the original U.S.S Enterprise, the TOS era Klingon cruiser and Romulan Bird of Prey, and the classic communicator, along with the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D, a TNG era communicator, tricorder and Type I phaser.
Star Trek: The Experience had visually dynamic cups in 2006 when visitors to the Las Vegas attraction were able to purchase a lenticular cup with bold images of the Enterprise in its NX-01, 1701 and 1701-D varieties.
Plastic cups make an excellent item to collect, as they're one of the easiest of the “collect-edible” memorabilia to clean and keep. Collect-edibles is that special category of Star Trek memorabilia that is somehow associated with food – whether it is food itself, like the Kellogg’s Star Trek (2009) waffles, or the containers and packaging of food, like Burger King French fry boxes. Designed to be disposal (or eaten!), most collect-edibles are difficult to maintain. However, plastic cups are meant to be used and reused, and hence are easier to collect than say waffles or cardboard boxes which held food. Also, the cups are usually free or available for a nominal additional fee, making them a cost-effective and affordable item for fans. We got our Star Trek Beyond plastic cups -- and are ready for more.
Maria Jose and John Tenuto are both sociology professors at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois, specializing in popular culture and subculture studies. The Tenutos have conducted extensive research on the history of Star Trek, and have presented at venues such as Creation Conventions and the St. Louis Science Center. They have written for the official Star Trek Magazine and their extensive collection of Star Trek items has been featured in SFX Magazine. Their theory about the “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and research on Star Trek fans has been featured on WGN News, BBC Radio and in the documentary The Force Among Us. They recently researched all known paperwork from the making of the classic episode "Space Seed" and are excited to be sharing some previously unreported information about Khan's first adventure with fellow fans. Contact the Tenutos at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.