Ugly Muggin’

We scoured Valley thrift and antique stores for the cheesiest and weirdest coffee mugs around.

Janae Breunig, Eric Christenson, Tom Giffey, Tyler Griggs, Serena Wagner, photos by Serena Wagner

Our cutest and most thrifty V1 staffers went on a Valley-wide search for the best (or worst) coffee mugs.
Our cutest and most thrifty V1 staffers went on a Valley-wide search for
the best (or worst) coffee mugs.

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Click for a closer look!
Click for a closer look!

Found At: Savers (2833 Mall Drive, Eau Claire)

Price: $0.99

Coffee Pairing: Probably a nice French Roast

Alternative Use: Office ball: A game where I attempt throw paper clips and/or small pebbles into this little cup.

Description: I was at Savers, saving money, looking at some cups, when I saw a little smile peeping at me from behind a mug that had birds on it, the smile of legendary San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson. I picked up my new treasure and was transformed from a girl with the athleticism of a potato to a girl with possibly an average person’s athleticism. I rode this feeling until I tripped off a curb and sprained both of my ankles. (I just finished my last physical therapy session, I’m doing pretty good; don’t worry your pretty little heads about me.) Although I find myself back in my potato-like state, when I drink out of my new-old David Robinson mug I feel like maybe someday, I could grow to be over seven feet tall and be able to dunk 100 basketballs (or just function like a normal person).   – Janae Breunig

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Click for a closer look!
Click for a closer look!

Found At: Savers (2833 Mall Drive, Eau Claire)

Price: $0.99

Coffee Pairing: Any coffee will do, but for full effect it must be prepared cowboy style: Boil coffee and water over a campfire in the middle of a ranch (doesn’t matter which ranch).

Alternative Use: Chewing tobacco spittoon.

Description: Without knowing anything about cattle brands, I was walking through Savers, sifting through shelves of vintage home décor when a cream-colored mug caught the corner of my eye. I squatted down and upon further inspection, found what appeared to be ancient glyphs surrounding a drawing of a cowboy and a steer. I thought, “Crop circle blueprints?” “Ambiguous astrological signs?” “Something out of Codex Seraphinianus?” I had no idea. It was only after learning that these were cattle brands that I felt the fresh wind of the farmstead flow through my hair as I sipped from this very mug. Surrounded by the arid southern landscape, I can hear the sizzle-crack of the branding iron as it approaches the behind of a unwilling steer. As the steam billows up my face, I’m thankful that it’s coffee I’m smelling and not a freshly branded cow hide. – Serena Wagner

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Click for a closer look!
Click for a closer look!

Found At: Bethesda Resale Shop (3178 London Road, Eau Claire)

Price: $0.59

Coffee Pairing: Something weak enough to be served at a church-basement fellowship hour but strong enough to perk you up after a long homily.

Alternative Use: Storing loose change to put on the collection plate on Sunday.

Description: This delicate little mug commemorates the 1986 centennial of the Church of the Holy Ghost, a Roman Catholic parish in Chippewa Falls. In a lucky stroke of ecumenism, I found it at Lutheran thrift store. As befits its religious origins, this mug is classier than the mostly kitschy ones I found while shopping: The script is in gold and the image is that of a white dove, a symbol of the Holy Ghost. This vessel makes me think of a story I recently heard about Clement VIII, a 17th-century pope. While some of his contemporaries condemned coffee, a relatively new beverage in Europe, the pontiff supposedly liked the brew and said, “Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it.” Like coffee itself, this mug isn’t ugly, it’s divine. – Tom Giffey

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Click for a closer look!
Click for a closer look!

Found At: Hope Gospel Mission (2511 W. Moholt Drive, Eau Claire)

Price: Four calling birds, three French hens

Coffee Pairing: Emulate St. Nick himself with light- to medium-roast Nicaraguan and Kona coffees, then beard that beverage with a generous twist of whipped cream. Keep a plate of reindeer-shaped oatmeal raisin cookies nearby for extra jolliness.

Alternative Use: After shoveling the walk, pop in A Christmas Story and fill this cup with frothy hot chocolate. Don’t forget the mini marshmallows and crushed peppermint.

Description: The holidays come alive in this hand-painted mug featuring Santa regalia. It’s 5 7/8” tall, 3” wide and will hold about 20 ounces. On either side of the handle, the breast of the Santa suit is symmetrical, featuring embossed buttons, belt, and white fur lining. The buttons are yellow-green and include decorative button-string imagery. The coat is cinched with a big black belt and grey buckle clasped to the slimmest belt hole. And inside the mug, the top is ringed with three HOHOHOHOs – The HOs per each string follow the same colored pattern of black-red-grey-red. – Tyler Griggs

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Click for a closer look!
Click for a closer look!

Found At: Savers (2833 Mall Drive, Eau Claire)

Price: $2.99

Coffee Pairing: Whatever my dad drinks, with an absurd amount of milk.

Alternative Use: Actual tiger cage.

Description: Of all the mugs at thrift stores in Eau Claire I think I found the jackpot. This mug has a gr-r-reat spirit of fun and is far too enormous to realistically drink coffee out of. I had a gr-r-reat time looking around different stores, trying to find the perfect one – the ideal mix of absurdity, kitsch and nostalgia – and when I landed on it, I just knew. Plus, if you’re not really a coffee drinker, you could fit an entire box of Frosted Flakes in the mug and enjoy the papery, underwhelmingly sugary cereal while maintaining a firm grip on its Tony-adorned handle so no one can physically take it away from you. Handy, abhorrent, beautiful, this would make a gr-r-ratuitous addition to anyone’s mug and/or Frosted Flakes memorabilia collection (I happen to have both). – Eric Christenson

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