Collecting Teapots

by Jim Woods

The preparation of tea as a beverage precedes recorded history. There is some evidence that it may go back as far as 2700 B.C. in China. The first credible reference to tea drinking was written in 350 B.C. The first known teapots were produced in the Chinese village of Yixing in the late 16th century although it's quite possible that there were actually teapots made before this period. As near east and European trade developed, tea preparation took on a worldwide character. A demand for teapots rose in the tea drinking countries and eventually people began collecting teapots.

Teapots have been made out of many materials including pottery, porcelain, bronze, copper, iron, tin, brass, pewter, silver and glass. Most teapots are fully functional while some are purely whimsical. The original Chinese teapots were very small and were often used for ceremonial purposes. As in most areas of collecting, well made and historical examples tend to be the most sought after and command the highest prices.

Most of the tableware manufacturers made teapots. Wedgwood, Adams, Copeland and several others made Jasperware teapots which are some of the most collectible. Many silversmiths, including Paul Revere, made teapots. Almost all early china services included a teapot. Tea Leaf; most Haviland patterns, Jewel Tea, Fiesta and many other popular collector's patterns offered teapots.

Some collectors specialize in a particular area such as Wedgwood, Belleck, railroad dining car, hotel, whimsical, Japanese or Chinese teapots. Teapots can cost around one to many thousands of dollars.

The general reference guides such as Schroeder's or Koval's can shed some light on what is out there and an idea of value. A more specific book is Tina Carter's "Collector's Guide To Teapots."

Next month I will discuss one of the little known collecting areas: early light bulbs. If you have questions of comments to this column send a note to Jim Woods, Collector, at the Zephyr, P.O. Box 1, Galesburg, IL 61402 or to

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