What? Starbucks Unveils a $450 Gift Card

Starbucks unveils $450 metal gift cards.
Source: Starbucks

Starbucks's $450 gift card made of metal will go on sale this Friday at noon eastern. If you notice your stocking drooping a bit more than usual on its hook this year, perhaps it's holding one of these 20 gram cards made of etched stainless steel and available in a limited run of 5,000 through the luxury shopping site Gilt.com. Existing Starbucks cardholders will get first dibs at noon ET on Thursday.

The card is loaded with $400 worth of coffee purchasing value. It costs more than $50 to make each one, Starbucks senior manager of global brand PR Linda Mills told TODAY. The cards also grant the bearer instant Starbucks Rewards Gold Level, which lets them earn free food and drink after making 12 purchases. Usually a card holder would have to make 30 purchases in 12 months to gain that status.

The gift card offering comes on the heels of a $7 large "Costa Rica Finca Palmilera" coffee that Starbucks is selling in only 48 stores, nearly all in Seattle and Portland. Large regular brews normally go for $2.20.

While the market play of a luxe offering in a recessionary time can seem counterintuitive, or snobbish, it might actually be pretty smart. Usually in hard times, it's the sale of cheap creature comforts and vices that survive, like candy, cigarettes, and yes, coffee, along with the super-high end markets.

If you buy your daily $1.50 latte, you will be set for 266 days.

I also harbor a serious love for good design and like the idea of turning the humble gift card, a flimsy mechanism of semi-virtual money, into a coveted object of substance. Having such a hefty reminder in your wallet could also be a way to make sure this card, unlike most gift cards that die in desk drawers and the bottom recesses of purses, actually gets used.