Vintage Mugs │ How to Curate a Vintage Mug Collection

Shelves of stacked mugs
A small shot of my collection
Do you like mugs like I do? 

If you're like most Americans, we all love our mugs. We love our morning cup of joe (or tea), and there's truth in the meme we've seen floating around, "I can't explain this with science, but the cup you drink your coffee out of matters."

It does matter. Coffee tastes better out of mugs from which we love to drink.

So, how many mugs do you have?

I've read much about people and their mugs and there's a variety of answers to what is deemed as "a lot." Some say 73, others say 10. It's subjective. 

At one point, in my vintage collection, I had upwards of 60 mugs. Yep. And these were the vintage ones. 

Never mind all the other mugs that we had in our cupboards: the ones my husband drinks from, the ones my sons drink from, the ones given to us as a wedding gift, the ones from Disneyland. 

We probably had over 100 mugs.

But guess what? I didn't (and still don't) care. I love vintage mugs and I use them every day and no one is going to make me feel bad about it.

I happen to be a minimalist, so having a lot of one thing isn't my jam anymore. But, I have only a couple of collections (Vintage Pyrex is the other), so I feel like I can responsibly collect the mugs I use. 

And if you're wondering, they're not just sitting around; I rotate through them so no one feels left out.

A few months ago, I got rid of half my collection (I sold them via my online vintage Etsy shop), but I still pick up ones I love and have a goodly 15-20 in my cupboard that I use on the regular. And yes, I add to this collection regularly, too.

If you love vintage mugs like I do, here's how I curated my collection and how you can too.

Have Patience: I've posted some TikToks about my vintage mugs and most people think "I'm so lucky" or that "I'm taking all the good mugs," (yes, someone said that) but here's the rub: I've been collecting these mugs for over ten years.

Ten years, people.

I didn't just instantly have a collection of beautiful mugs. It took time and patience and the willingness to thrift, garage sale, and estate sale, and thrift some more to get them. I find them because I'm out there looking to find them. 

You too, can do this, but it will require patience. On average, I find maybe one or two a month (they're getting rare - many vintage mugs break every day all over America, so the vintage supply shrinks every time a mug bites the dust), and some I find but choose to sell. My point? Have a plethora of patience. It'll do your mind wonders. The mugs are out there. 

Know What You Like: There's a variety of vintage mugs out there. From Garfield mugs to steins, to Fiesta Ware mugs (very rare), to the mugs from the '60s through the '80s that I happen to collect. They are often speckled and have brown-rimmed tops and handles.

They're also slightly smaller than modern mugs often eight ounces or less. Modern mugs are larger, but it also means the drink gets colder sooner. Vintage mugs have lots going for them!

A vintage mug on a blanket
I especially adore vintage Otagiri mugs. The designs, the three-dimensional look, and mostly, the quality of these mugs are outstanding. And not something that has (shockingly) been reproduced today. (Not yet, anyway).

These are the mugs that get my heart racing. I  love them to pieces. It's why I collect them (and why I sell them too. I know what I like and keep so that I don't buy every cute mug I come across).

Theme the Hues: I love many vintage mugs, but I found that when I coordinated the colors - for me, it's the muted blues, ivories, light browns, and olive greens I prefer - it not only helped me pare down from buying all the gorgeous vintage mugs I came across, but it made my collection look perfect.

I've had people tell me it's the best collection they've ever seen. (TikTokers can get really complimentary.) And they wonder how they too can get a nice collection like mine. 

I'm telling you, coordinate the colors. Each one is unique but it looks like they could've come from a pottery maker set.

I didn't set out to collect vintage mugs. I remember it was a very slow (and extremely cheap) temptation. When something costs $1, it's easy to let that dollar go and take a chance on a mug I might like.

I found I not only loved and used the mugs, but they gave me such satisfaction looking at and holding them, that I needed to add a few more. 

And a few more.

Using vintage mugs not only makes them utilitarian, but they are sustainable. (Reusing and recycling beautiful things is a nice bonus.) So, get out there and find your mugs... the kind that speaks to you, makes you want to collect them and also makes your mug shelf look like it's straight out of a curated collection. 

Your desire to truly appreciate what's in your cupboards also helps to further the slow living movement. When you're intentional about what you have, love, use, and share, it changes everything around you.

Happy hunting.

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