Mrs. Potts isn't the only beloved teapot out there, and it seems that collectible teapots continue to grow in popularity with vintage lovers and serious antiquers alike. There's no limit to the type of teapot that you can find; pots can be vintage or new, figural or floral in design, and as long as they're whimsical, unusual, or appealing in some way they tend to fit the bill.
What Exactly Are Collectible Teapots?
Collectible teapots can be vintage or new with the pot's age often being in consideration amongst teapot collectors. While some collectors are more interested in the character of the pot itself, others take pride in owning the rarest and oldest pots available. Many of vintage teapots are humorous representations of people, sometimes even making a quiet political statement on the tea table, while others were created to commemorate some current event. Meanwhile, antique teapots were crafted in a more stereotypical teapot style, with makers focusing on clean shapes and pristine design.
Considering Teapots From a Collector's Point of View
Since there're so many different types of teapots, you should do some research before you begin your collection. Buying a good price guide for teapots would be a wise investment, as well as getting an idea of what types of teapots catch your eye. Similarly, you should ask yourself questions like, "What's in your price range?" or, "What period in time's design excites me the most?" While choosing a teapot based only on popularity is not a great idea, it's wise to familiarize yourself with what is currently popular.
How to Identify a Collectible Teapot
Generally, older teapots are more collectible because of their aesthetics and age. This means that it's important for you to be able to do a quick assessment of any teapots you might discover in an antique store, thrift shop, or online location. There're a few telltale markers that can indicate a teapot's age, including:
- Dates/makers' marks - This won't always be the case, but many teapots will come with either dating or manufacturers marks inscribed into the bottom somewhere. This can either give you a concrete answer as to the year it was made, or give you a manufacturer whose work you can look into to give the pot a preliminary date yourself.
- Spout irregularity - Early teapots were crafted by hand, meaning that you should be able to see distinctive evidence of human craftsmanship on them. This is particularly true of teapot's spouts, and finding striking around the holes as well as uneven holes can be an indicator of an older pot.
- Natural materials - Some of the oldest pots were made out of natural materials which were either dried in the sun or baked, meaning ceramic teapots are often some of the oldest and most collectible teapots around.
- Shape & design - Older western teapots were created in a rounded shape prior to the 18th century, and those from the east were made in a squat, wide circular shape. Uniquely designed pots, like ones with unusual dimensions and avant garde designs, probably weren't crafted until the 20th century when the advent of mass production allowed for greater manufacturing options to develop.
There're so many types of collectible teapots it'd be impossible to describe them all, but some of the more popular types of teapots to collect are:
- Figural - Men, women, children, political figures and historical figures
- Floral - Trees, roses, cherry blossoms, daisies
- Regional Motif - English countryside, Chinese landscape, Japanese landscape, and so on
- Animal - Bunnies, cats, dogs, deer, camels, chickens
- Vehicles - Cars, trains, planes, boats, a horse and carriage
- Cartoon Characters - Garfield, Popeye, Superman, Pooh, Eyeore
- Food - Fruit, vegetables, cookies, cakes
- Commemorative - buildings, people, inventions
Regions and Materials of Teapots
It's easy to think about teapots and their classically round, spouted shape, but there're so many different designs that have been crafted over the centuries that you can collect. While you might be tempted to think of teapots in a western ethnocentric way, you shouldn't let that tendency dissuade you from embracing the regional pots from across Asia that often come to auction. Of course, on top of these regions, you can find pots made out many more materials than just steel or porcelain. Some of these materials include:
- Bone china
Buying and Selling Collectible Teapots
When it comes to buying and selling older teapots, the most important factors are its age, degree of design (the more ornate, the better), and the known maker (if it has one). Antique teapots tend to sell for more money than vintage teapots do, with those that're heavily designed (gilded edges, painted illustrations, finely crafted shapes, and so on) selling for more than simple teapots at auction. However, the range that teapots can sell for is massive, with teapots selling for anywhere around $20-$500 on average.
Here are some recently sold teapots from various regions, styles, and eras to give you an idea of what these collectibles usually go for:
Most Expensive Teapots Ever Sold
Not every expensive teapot comes from a luxury brand's tea service; in fact, many of the most valuable teapots are antiques. Although the chances are low that you've got one of these high-priced teapots lying around in your china cabinet, they're not completely zero either.
- The Egoist Teapot - The most expensive teapot ever sold, this piece designed by Nirmal Sethia sold for $3 million thanks to the hundreds of encrusted diamonds and rubies spread across the pot's surface.
- Melon Teapots - Sold in 2011 for $2.18 million, these twin teapots have a delightful melon shape and natural branch motifs which take over both their handles and their spouts.
- Yixing Zisha Teapot - Created by legendary ceramicist Gu Jingzhou, this 1948 purple clay teapot sold for $2 million in 2010.
- Famille Rose Coral-Ground Teapots - This pair of ornate red, yellow, and blue teapots from the Imperial Quinalong Dynasty sold for $1.26 million in a Christie's auction.
- 1760s John Bartlam Teapot - An exquisite piece attributed to South Carolina's John Bartlam sold for just over $800,000 at auction, and is considered to be the oldest surviving American porcelain teapot in existence.
Where to Find Collectible Teapots
The internet is a wonderful resource for novelty teapots, whether you're collecting a wide variety, or choosing to focus on a certain type. Some of the best online resources to find some amazing teapots for sale are:
- eBay - Everyone's go-to online retailer for unique antique and vintage items at a reasonable price is eBay. They've got a whole host of interesting teapots available, and are constantly adding new ones to their roster.
- Etsy - Another leading online retailer well-known for its vintage and antique items is Etsy. You can find teapots from centuries ago, as well as those from just in the past year. Make sure to keep abreast of the site as sellers are constantly updating their current shops with new and exciting goods.
- British Novelty Teapots - One of the primary importers of British teapots, this company has some fabulous examples of collectible teapots from a variety of makers of decades that you can purchase.
- Everything But The House - A lesser known auction website is Everything But The House (EBTH) which hosts products curated from American estate sales. Bid alongside other interested parties and see who comes out on top; they even have a unique option to pick up the item(s) from one of their hubs (depending on where the items were found) and this can drastically drop the price thanks to having no shipping costs added on.
Here's a Little Teapot, Short and Stout
Teatime is all of the time when you've got one of these collectible teapots on-hand. If you don't already have one, keep your eyes peeled at garage sales, thrift shops, and antique stores for that perfect teapot to round out your collection or to get it started. Make a new tradition with your daily tea routine by incorporating one of these antique pots or use it to display a new bouquet of flowers; the possibilities of showing off these teapots around your home are endless.