The online magazine American Chronicle featured an article yesterday that covered the recent rise of the designer espresso cup: American Chronicle: History Of Espresso Coffee Cups. (Though calling it a “history” is a bit of a misstatement.) In 1992, Illycaffè decided that art and design should be better woven into the espresso-sipping experience, and the result was the first modern designer espresso cups.

The originals were first designed by commissioned artist Matteo Thun. Today a number of cup manufacturers design and produce these as collectors items — commissioning new designs on a frequent basis. Sometimes they even number the cups produced in a series. While the cups themselves can be quite exquisite, the prices some collectors will pay for these limited edition cups can be outrageous.

(Note: This American Chronicle piece was written as part of an article-writing PR campaign by a shadow Web site, which sells Saeco machines through Amazon.com. All these articles are mysteriously attributed to a site owner named either “Ricky Lee” or “Ricky Lim”. Blogger payola is alive and well.)

Matteo Thun's original design has since spawned a gallery of successors