Photo courtesy Spotify
New York City’s iconic yellow MetroCard has been a trademark of the subway since 1992, the year it was introduced. The slim, plastic cards eliminated the burden of carrying subway tokens — and so, the MTA officially discontinued the use of the coins in 2003.
New York City’s beloved MetroCard has served us reliably (for the most part) ever since then. But now, with its impending phase out expected to be completed by 2023, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the various iterations of the MetroCard over the years.
There are plenty of ones that advertise upcoming shows, various New York City institutions and important events like the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star game. There are simply too many to list, so we’ve honed in some of our favorites over the years:
11. David Bowie Metrocards
In true New York City fashion, in April 2018, David Bowie took over the Broadway-Lafayette and Bleecker Street subway stops. A collaboration between Spotify and The Brooklyn Museum, the stations were covered in Bowie-themed subway ads, images of fan-made works and wall-sized depictions of pieces currently on display at the museum’s new David Bowie Is exhibition. The underground experience included unique Spotify codes to brings fans closer to Bowie’s music, as well as limited edition, keepsake MetroCards that were be available for purchase inside the Broadway-Lafayette station. These MetroCards each display one of five Bowie personas including Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and Thin White Duke. The “takeover” will be on view until Sunday, May 13th, and MetroCards wered selling on eBay with “Buy Now” prices ranging from $9.99 to $299.
10. Barbara Kruger MetroCard
On Wednesday, November 1st, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released 50,000 limited-edition MetroCards, featuring American conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger’s bold lettering that has formerly been displayed on buses and train stations, among other places.
Distributed randomly at four New York City stations (Queensboro Plaza, Broadway-Lafayette Street, East Broadway and the B/C station at 116th Street), the cards are being presented in conjunction with site-specific works that Kruger is conceptualizing for the Performa Biennial. They are available in two sets, which ask a series of short, poignant questions like “Who is healed?,” “Whose justice?” and “Who speaks?”
9. I Love New York MetroCards
On October 29, 2013, one year after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City, the MTA released 300,000 commemorative MetroCards displaying the classic “I Love NY” logo.
Following the hurricane, the logo experienced a resurgence in popularity, according to Time Out New York. Six versions of the cards were offered: each honoring a different part of the city that was hit hard by the storm. The series was meant to celebrate the resiliency of New York, and included the quote “This is your passport to see the comeback.”
Read more about the history of the logo here.
8. Grand Central Centennial MetroCard
In honor of Grand Central Terminal turning 100-years-old, a host of activities took place on February 1st, 2013, during the Grand Central Centennial. All day festivities included exhibits, special offers, performances, photo opportunities and speeches from notable speakers.
In honor of the transit hub’s legacy, a series of limited edition MetroCards were also available for purchase at Grand Central vending machines or booths, in addition to the New York Transit Museum gift shops. The series featured one of four images: the terminal’s Main Concourse, its Information Booth Clock, an image from Nick Cave’s HeardNY or the grand sculpture of Mercury.
7. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge MetroCard
Another commemorative MetroCard celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which took place on November 21st 1964.
This decorative, double-sided MetroCard depicts an image of the bridge lit up at night on the front and the date of its anniversary (November 21, 2014) on the back.
By design, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge MetroCard is one of our favorites, but the MTA is no stranger to featuring iconic New York City landmarks: there are previous MetroCards depicting notable places like One World Observatory (in celebration of its opening); the Guggenheim Museum, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the 150th anniversary of the Staten Island Railway (among other places)
6. 10th Anniversary of 9/11 MetroCard
In 2011, the MTA commemorated the 10 anniversary of the September 11th attacks with two different versions of the “REUNITED 9/11 Memorial” MetroCard. The first version notes the opening and dedication of the 9/11 Memorial, inviting people to visit the installation and museum, and providing directions on how to get there.
The second version, with larger text, only mentions the website (911memorial.org) and the same subway directions that were printed on the first card.
5. World’s Fair MetroCard
For sometime now, we’ve been compiling information about both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fair. In 2016, we highlighted the IND (independent) subway line that was created for the 1939 World’s Fair, in addition to the aqua blue color subway car — the R22 WF (World’s Fair) model — which was specifically commissioned for the 1964 World’s Fair.
Following the event, many of the cars ended up serving as reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. However, they are memorialized on the MTA’s MetroCard (seen above), which depicts a vintage photograph of the specially marked train that carried people to the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1964. In the image, a banner states that the fleet of cars is the “first of the new 430 Blue-Gray Subway Cars for the IRT Flushing Line.”
4. Fulton Center MetroCard
Another more recent MetroCard advertises the Fulton Center, with a byline that describes the complex as “New York’s new transportation and retail hub in Lower Manhattan.”
Two versions of the MetroCard were released and distributed around Fulton station: one features the outside of the center and the other one showcases its interior. Both mention that the center is “coming soon” and list the subway lines that would be accessible to commuters there.
3. Second Avenue Subway MetroCard
“This is the new MTA,” boasts the commemorative MetroCard issued in honor of the grand opening of the Second Avenue Subway and its three new stations. In this iteration, the iconic yellow of the standard MetroCard is replaced with colorful circles with letters that spell out “The Second Avenue Subway.” The same design is seen on maps of the line, dedicated subway cars and banners hung in the actual stations.
2. Supreme MetroCard
One of the most popular limited-edition MetroCards is now on sale on eBay with a price tag that ranges anywhere from $5.00 to $900.00. Strikingly similar to Barbara Kruger’s style, the Supreme MetroCard reportedly “shook” New York City when it debuted. Supreme, a vastly popular cult streetwear brand, announced its partnership with the MTA earlier this year on February 20th.
Before infiltrating eBay, they were purchasable at Supreme stores and the following stations: Broadway-Lafayette, Queens Plaza, Marcy Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Prince Street, Spring Street, Union Square, and the 125th Street 2/3 train. The demand for the cards was so intense that long lines, sometimes controlled by a police presence, formed in front of the vending machines distributing them.
1. 110 Years of the New York City Subway MetroCard
The MTA makes it a point to commemorate milestones in subway history like the 75th anniversary of the IND. In celebration of the 110th anniversary of New York City’s subway system, it released four collectable MetroCards that feature archival photographs of historic moments in subway history.
The images depict The Bronx’s Jerome Avenue line in the midst of construction in 1915, dignitaries on an inspection tour of the City Hall Station, the introduction of subway service to Queens in 1915, and the extension of subway service to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn a year after.