Collecting teapots can be a very satisfying hobby that will take you across many eras of history, through many different designs and shapes. While no single article could ever hope to cover the breadth of what is involved in collecting an item, this article provides you with a brief overview of the things to consider when you want to get started in collecting teapots, so that you can begin your collection in an informed and directed way.
Get inspiration. Before you start collecting, it is important to know what you like about teapots. Check out collections and styles of teapots held or owned by other people that you know and try to see some exhibitions if possible. Here are some good resources to get your research started:
- Museums – especially museums concerned with design, with household items, with the way people used to live. Look out for teapot exhibitions, which are held regularly in different parts of the world. Even if you can’t make one in another country, you might be able to browse some of the collection online through the museum or exhibitor’s site.
- Books and magazines – look in antique and collectibles resources in the library, ditto for magazines.
- Antique and collectibles stores – browse around; you will be amazed at what you will find; and don’t forget opportunity shops (charity stores) either – they will often have teapots.
- Friends and family – look at the items kept by people you know. Ask them questions about where they bought the teapot, why they bought it, how they feel about it, etc. It all goes towards informing you about how you will approach collecting teapots.
Decide on how you will collect teapots. There are many different ways to collect, based on interest, budget, availability, etc. You will need to consider how to define and limit your collection so that it is doable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle (space!). Here are some considerations to take into account:
- Historical teapots – Do you like teapots belong to a particular era in history? Do you only like modern teapots? Or old teapots? There are many, many possibilities here. For example, you might be fond of Victorian era silver teapots or Art Deco ceramic teapots. This will be something that your prior research will help you to decide.
- Style – Do you prefer a particular style of teapot? Are you looking for teapots that will match existing decor or themes in your home?
- Make – Do you prefer a particular brand or make of teapot?
- Material – Perhaps you are keen to a certain material only; for example, you can collect silver, terracotta, ceramic, glass, bone china, cast iron, etc., teapots.
- Country of origin – Do you only want to collect Japanese or Chinese teapots? Or Early Colonial teapots from the southern hemisphere?
- Design – Perhaps you only want teapots with animal motifs, or spots, or stripes? This type of collecting is known as “novelty” teapot collecting. Collecting in this manner can narrow down the options but it can be a huge source of fun and enjoyment at the same time!
- Tea company designs – Sometimes tea companies sell their own brand teapots and this can be a collectible theme of its very own.
- Eclectic – There is nothing preventing you from collecting teapots in an “anything goes” fashion either, collect it just because you like it! This is probably the easiest and most budget-adjustable approach to collecting teapots because you can be very flexible in your additions. An eclectic collection can be just as valuable and interesting as a themed one, provided that you take good care of the teapots and choose quality to begin with (see below about spotting problems).
Consider affordability and availability. These are two key elements of a successful collection. If it will be difficult to source a teapot, or expensive, you might want to consider alternative ways of branching out in your teapot collection. It might be a case of having one expensive centerpiece and a cheaper supporting cast of pretty but budget-conscious teapots.
Learn as much as you can about marks and designs so that you can avoid buying fakes. When you get really serious about collecting, it’s likely that you’ll start looking for more expensive and rarer items to add to your collection and that you will focus on particular makes.
- A good way of doing this is to attend local auctions or to search online auctions for sales. However, it is important that you are familiar with the marks and signs of the manufacturer so that you avoid making costly mistakes and bringing home a fake. Take the time to borrow books on the topic and learn the marks and design signatures that confirm the authenticity of your teapots.
Avoid buying teapots in poor condition unless you have a really good reason for doing so. It is important to add only quality to your collection, or it won’t carry value (beyond sentimental) into the future. Things to be extra careful of when examining teapots include:
- Cracks, including fine hairline cracks that are difficult to see, and glued-back sections. Look closely at the lid and spout for the most likely break lines.
- Missing parts (such as the lid, a handle, etc.).
Broaden your collection. If you have the space and the interest, you might consider teacups, tea trays, tea kettles, sugar bowls, milk jugs, tea towels featuring teapots, fabric with teapot prints, etc., as part of an overall collection. While this will increase the cost and the usage of space, it can be a very rewarding dimension to your collecting hobby that can also be put to good use during tea parties.