It's easy to overlook the museum gift shop, yet many have evolved into destinations for carefully curated, striking objects that you won't encounter at your local shopping mall.
We've scoured New York City's finest design, art, and history museums to compile a slide show of one-of-a-kind affordable gifts that max out at $50. Some will remind you of the city, others you'll want to pack on your next trip, and nearly all of them can be purchased online.
$25 and Under
New York's Times Square Print, $9.95
The Museum of the City of New York celebrates local history in its galleries and gift shop. A vintage-style art deco poster of Times Square is a sophisticated alternative to the posters hawked at actual Times Square souvenir shops. Museum of the City of New York, mcny.org.
Mandarin Bloom Notecard Tin Box, $12
This set of 12 note cards draws upon lavish patterns from a rare 10-volume series of books on the art of weaving. They were published by the Imperial Household Museum of Tokyo in 1893 and are now part of the Brooklyn Museum's globe-spanning collection. Brooklyn Museum, brooklynmuseum.org
Ceramic NY Coffee Cup, $12.95
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which chronicles the immigrant experience in downtown Manhattan, sells a ceramic version of the old-time paper coffee cups used in delis. Lower East Side Tenement Museum, tenement.org.
Wanderlust Address Book, $13.95
Adorned with images of more than 70 public telephones from around the world, the Wanderlust Address Book allows you to keep tabs on your friends, wherever they may be. It includes spaces for name, date of birth, contact info, and "where we met." Museum of Modern Art, moma.org.
Our World Floor Puzzle, $15
Children of all ages can sharpen their world-geography knowledge thanks to a two-by-three-foot floor puzzle decorated with colorful illustrations of landmarks, wildlife, and natural resources. Whitney Museum, whitney.org. Not available online.
Snowflake Ornaments, $17
For a dose of Americana, visit the American Folk Art Museum, where you'll encounter cozy, handcrafted gifts like a set of three fabric snowflake ornaments. American Folk Art Museum, folkartmuseum.org. Not available online; purchase by phone at 212/265-1040 ext.#124.
BYO Six-pack, $19
As befits a design museum, the Cooper-Hewitt is a great source for forward-looking products. This stylish neoprene carrying case, perfect for barbecues and picnics, keeps up to six beverages protected and insulated. Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, cooperhewitt.org.
Ecoist Coin Purse (Map Pattern), $22
Recycled subway maps are handwoven to create these coin purses. Profits from the purses go to planting trees in areas affected by disasters and industrial development. New York Transit Museum, transitmuseumstore.com.
Flat Flower Vases, $24
Add a personal, cheery touch to your hotel room with this pack of two expandable vinyl flower vases, which transform from easily packed flat sheets to self-supporting vases when filled with water. Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, cooperhewitt.org.
Mini Alarm Clock, $25
The Museum of Modern Art's gift shop stocks items that combine style and functionality. One handy example is this portable battery-powered alarm clock that has a snooze function, calendar, stopwatch, and timer. Museum of Modern Art, moma.org.
$50 and Under
Compact Speakers, $28
Simply plug these portable speakers from MoMA into your MP3 player's earphone jack and voilà: instant stereo! The travel-friendly speakers fold neatly together and use power from the MP3 player, so there's no need to lug around extra batteries. Museum of Modern Art, moma.org.
Travel Poker Set, $30
Take your game on the road with a durable suede poker set that includes a deck of cards, 100 poker chips, poker instructions, and a spiral notebook for scorekeeping complete with a mini pencil. Metropolitan Museum of Art, metmuseum.org.
I Dig Velociraptor Kit, $35
The American Museum of Natural History, where Night at the Museum was filmed, wows visitors with its towering dinosaur skeletons (and a 94-foot-long blue whale suspended from the ceiling). An excavation kit filled with miniature replica dinosaur bones enclosed in a dust-free block lets kids channel their inner paleontologists. American Museum of Natural History, amnhshop.com.
Audubon's Aviary Recycled Banner Bag, $35
Each waterproof tote bag is made from an actual banner touting the New-York Historical Society's exhibition of watercolors by naturalist John James Audubon. The bags not only reuse materials, they also provide employment to local homeless people, who are trained to sew by the nonprofit organization Urban Samaritan. New-York Historical Society, nyhistory.org.
Coney Island Beach Towel, $36
The New York Transit Museum, located in a 1936 subway station in Brooklyn Heights, stocks this fun beach towel emblazoned with a retro Coney Island print. New York Transit Museum, transitmuseumstore.com.
Ahava Bookend, $39
The Jewish Museum offers a unique twist on Robert Indiana's iconic Love sculpture with a beautifully crafted steel bookend of the word ahava, which is Hebrew for "love." The Jewish Museum, jewishmuseum.org.
Melamine Diner Plates, $40
Four durable melamine plates—featuring interior shots of different diners—pay tribute to legendary diners and delis, like those of New York. International Center of Photography, icp.org.
Spectrum Photo Album Set, $45
Even in the digital age, there's no denying the allure and practicality of archiving photos in this colorful set of six clothbound photo albums. International Center of Photography, icp.org.
Guggenheim Teapot, $45
Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic design for the Guggenheim Museum also makes an elegant porcelain teapot. The tiered shape is an inverted ziggurat—a terraced pyramidal form used for temples in ancient Mesopotamia. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim.org.
Tibetan Pierced Work Earrings, $50
Like much of the Met's jewelry, these intricate gold-plated earrings are modeled after a piece in the collection: a 15th-17th century Tibetan iron bridle. Metropolitan Museum of Art, met.org.