7-Eleven Slurpee Marvel Comic Glasses
Original release: February 2010
First published in CGN #51 December/January 1999
All of us are well aware that our collecting interests are usually generated by our desire to recapture parts of our childhood, either those which are long-gone, or those which perhaps never existed. As a result, our collections tend to consist of either toys we had, but unwisely discarded, or ones which we always wanted, but never received. For the most part, I’m no different, my primary obsession throughout life has been comic books, a passion from childhood to this date which definitely falls into the first category. My interest in cartoon glasses has always been somewhat secondary to comic books, but always connected, and fit in the latter category. Although I was able to pick up the occasional glass during long-distance family car trips, which necessitated fast-food lunches, my parents, in an attempt to ensure our nutritional well-being, did their best to keep my sisters and me from enjoying McDonald's, Burger King, Carroll's and the rest. Their intentions may have been good, but the end result was that I became incredibly envious of the children of some family friends who lived nearby. They had a cabinet full of not only '73 Warner Bros., but what I later learned were both easy and hard interactions. The end result was that, as soon as I graduated from college and started my first job, I began collecting cartoon glasses.
The reason I’ve rambled about my own personal collecting habits is that my latest obsession, 7-11 Slurpee superhero cups, doesn’t fall into either of the above categories, a fact that I believe, speaks to the relative rareness, especially in high grade, of these extraordinarily collectible items. Somehow, they didn’t even show up on my comic and glass collecting radar until I came across some at a toy show two years ago. For those of you who are not familiar with these cups, they are plastic with extremely fragile painted depictions of superheroes and villains. There are four major sets: a 1973 DC comics set, two 1975 Marvel comics sets, and a 1977 Marvel comics set. The 1973 and 1975 sets have a still picture of each character on the front, often with the logo from their comic book. On the back of each cup is a summary of the character’s origin, powers, and supporting characters.
I know some of you have some pretty strong negative feelings about plastic (my wife shares these feelings with many of you-as far as she’s concerned, I’ve definitely crossed a line), but these cups are extremely appealing. As you’ll see, they have more in common with superhero glasses than you might expect. One of the reasons I find these cups so collectible is that they are from the period in which I began collecting comic books. I’m not alone in this-others who began collecting comics at this time are increasingly able to spend money on comics and related memorabilia from this period. This is reflected in rapidly increasing values for 1970’s comics and superhero Slurpee cups. Despite a rise in the average price of these cups, information on them is still spotty, and as a result, one can still find the same cup at widely varying prices. This, too, simply increases their appeal. Hey, it’s always fun to find a deal. In addition, their appeal is also enhanced by the fact that many of the cups feature not only major characters that the public is familiar with, but also more minor ones which only diehard comic fans know. In fact, it is very likely that many of the characters on these cups have never before, or since, been licensed for use on premiums or toys. For example, there’s not only the usual Batman, Superman, and Spiderman cups, but also ones featuring the Watcher, Vigilante, Captain Boomerang, Nighthawk, and others. What I will attempt to do below is describe each set, provide some general pricing information, highlight cups which are generally considered rarest and most valuable, and then provide the beginning of a checklist. If you have any info to fill in the holes, please feel free to either send it to me or CGN.
1973 DC: This is far and away the most desirable, difficult, and expensive set to complete. There are sixty cups in the series, including nine supervillains. Rumor has it that this set was not distributed as widely as the other sets. I’ve tried, and failed, to get any information from 7-11 and Southland Corp. about the cups, and have been told they have no records on them. Therefore I do not know if this is true. These cups are extremely difficult to find in excellent condition, and they generally appear to not be cared for as well by their owners as were the three Marvel series. My theory is that perhaps the DC set appealed more to children who were inclined to play with or use them, and who were naturally less collection-oriented. The DC promotion also does not appear to be as sophisticated as the Marvel ones, with many of the cups having simple printed names under the character, as opposed to real logos. In addition, DC traditionally only licensed certain images, many of which dated from the early 1960’s. The end result is that many of the images on the cups reflected artwork from an earlier era. Others, however, are almost unbearably hip, especially DC’s attempt at creating a “Mod” Supergirl wearing hotpants. As far as I’m concerned, this inconsistency only adds to the series’ charm. DC’s licensing of specific images also makes it possible for many glass collectors to recognize the pictures on the cups from other toys or even the glasses we all know and love. For example, the Riddler, Robin, Wonderwoman, Penguin, and Aquaman cups all have identical images to the 1976 NPP and DC Super Series “moon” glasses which they predate.
As far as scarcity and value are concerned, the DC series is, as I mentioned, the hardest to complete. As a result, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for the more common cups in the set, depending on condition. Consensus has it that Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick, is far and away the hardest to find, and a real nice example recently went for over $20 on ebay. I’ve heard of others who would willingly pay much more for it. I’ve personally had difficulty finding lesser known characters, especially sidekicks and older DC characters created in the 1940’s, and have seen these items priced at up to $15. My advice is, if you have the opportunity to pick up any DC cups in truly good condition, do so. I can only base my advice on my own impressions, which are drawn from transactions made on ebay and at some local comic book shows, but, in general, their value seems to be rising rapidly.
1975 Marvel: There are actually two sets from this year which are identical, except for size. One set is taller and narrower (3 3/8"w x 5 3/8"h), the same size as the DC series, and the other is shorter and wider (3 5/8"w x 4 7/8"h), the same size as the 1977 Marvel series. Each set has sixty cups. The 1975 series are stylistically “slicker, than the DC series, with each character having an actual logo by the picture and his/her origin on the back appearing in a word balloon being “spoken” by the character. Unlike the DC series, the Marvel one only portrays heroes, and all of the images are contemporary to the year of issue. The Marvel series also differs in that more popular characters often have more than one cup. For example, the Hulk has three somewhat different images. These are not simply variations, but distinct cups which count toward the total number of sixty. As far as values are concerned, one can easily find these cups at prices ranging from $2 to $7. The most notable exception is the great pulp hero, Doc Savage. For some reason, perhaps due to lower production or distribution irregularities, this cup routinely goes for over $20. I’ve often wondered if this were due to the fact that Doc Savage wasn’t a true Marvel hero, but one which they temporarily had the license to publish and therefore did not produce in the same numbers. Perhaps Doc Savage fans, who tend to be avid collectors, have driven up demand. Regardless, it is the most valuable cup in the series. Just to illustrate the inconsistencies that exist in the Slurpee market, I’ve picked up several copies of this cup for next to nothing, while more common ones evade me.
1977 Marvel: This set is both the most visually attractive and easiest to complete. Ironically, it is the one for which I do not have a complete checklist. Any feedback filling in the holes in my list would be greatly appreciated. There are fourty-four cups in the series, each of which portray Marvel superheroes and villains in action scenes which wrap around the cup. As with the 1975 series, more popular characters have more than one cup. The Fantastic Four has three, I believe, Spiderman at least two, the Hulk at least two, and Thor two, etc. Glass collectors will also recognize several of the scenes in this series as ones which were used in the extremely desirable six glass Marvel series which 7-11 eventually issued. I’ve been able to pick up cups from this series for anywhere between $2 to $8, and, as far as I know, there are none which are notoriously rare. One cup, however, does stand out, at least in my opinion, as highly undervalued as well as incredibly overlooked by comic and toy collectors. It is the X-men cup. It is perhaps the first licensed item featuring the team, and was issued before the characters became immensely popular with the following generation of kids. I wholly anticipate that the demand for this cup will increase as awareness of it spreads.
Finally, a few more bits of information, and some tips for care and storage. There are significant variations present, the meaning of which I do not understand. Included among these are 1975 and 1977 Marvel cups without the 7-11 Logo on the back. Are these simply errors, or do they suggest that the cups were distributed by other chains as well? I also have a 1975 Spiderman with a Canadian copyright and an Icee logo on the back. Is there a whole other series? I’ve found two cups which resemble the 1977 series, but have 1978 copyrights and do not have 7-11 logos. Is there another, less successful, Marvel series out there? Also, for those of you who might be interested, I should mention that there are other non-superhero sets as well. For years, Slurpee cups extensively depicted baseball and football players, as well as Hanna-Barbara characters. As far as care and storage is concerned, unlike glasses, or even later plastic cups, Slurpee cups from the mid-1970’s are extremely fragile. Images can be easily and accidentally scraped off, especially when stacking them inside each other. If you must store them this way, place a piece of tissue or, preferably, acid-free tissue paper, between the cups to prevent both scraping and the formation of stacking lines formed by accumulating dirt and dust. Avoid exposure to sunlight or fluorescent light. Like all plastics, they will break down in the presence of ultra-violet light. The result of such exposure can readily be found in the yellowed, brittle, and cracked Slurpee cups you will come across in your searches. Don’t be discouraged by this, it is still possible to find cups which have survived the past twenty-five years undamaged. Most importantly, have fun. These sets are still relatively cheap, compared to glasses, and are more challenging to find than all but the scarcest glasses made in the last 30 years.
By Paul Merolle
This site was last updated 02/20/10