Teapots date to the early 18th century when tea was introduced in Britain, and the British began their love affair with the beverage. Even early examples of the teapot came in many sizes and shapes, some of these often whimsical. While there are various large companies that are famous for their pots, such as Belleek, Wedgwood, and Minton, there are many smaller teapot manufacturers as well. Learning to identify a teapot by the maker's backstamp can help you learn more about the manufacturer of the pot, when it was made and its value.
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Look at maker's mark guides. Turn your teapot over and see what type of backstamp is on the underside. Search guides that show marks from different manufacturers in order to identify the maker of your piece. If your teapot is made of china or pottery, try the online guides Marks4Ceramics or the International Ceramic Directory. If the piece is silver, look at the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks.
Study books on collecting teapots. Look at the descriptions and pictures of collectable teapots in order to recognise which marks identify which makers. Start at your local library or bookstore in order to be able to look through the books and see which ones will be useful. Eventually, you may want to buy a collectors' guide to keep as a handy reference. Some guidebooks on teapot collecting include "Teapots by Design: A Collectors' Catalogue" by Unjeria C. Jackson, M.D., "Collectible Teapots: A Reference and Price Guide" by Tina M. Carter, "Instant Expert: Collecting Teapots" by Leah Rousmaniere, and "Antique Trader Teapots Price Guide" edited by Kyle Husfloen.
Ask other collectors. Use the expertise of other collectors to help you identify the markings on your teapot. The website World Collectors Net features a message board specifically for teapot collectors to post questions, which are then answered by other collectors. Food.com has a Teapot Collector's Club where members can post pictures and discuss their collectibles.
Consult a china replacement service. A china replacement service such as Replacements, Ltd. will help you identify the maker and pattern of your teapot without charge. You will need to send an image of your pot, including its markings, to the company via fax, e-mail or letter.
Hire an expert. An appraiser will be able to identify your piece by its markings, as well as estimate its value. Choose an appraiser by contacting The American Society of Appraisers. A second option is to contact a museum that features china and silver, and see if one of their experts is available for a consultation. Finally, many large antiques stores host days when they offer the services of an expert appraiser for a small fee or for free. Ask at shops in your area to find out if this service is ever available.
Tips and warnings
- Hiring a professional appraiser will give you lots of information, but this service is not free and may not be a good choice unless you suspect that your teapot is very valuable or you have a large collection you want identified.
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- Marks4Ceramics: Porcelain marks, pottery marks, and ceramic marks visual guide
- Pottery Marks: International Ceramics & Pottery Directory
- Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
- World Collectors Net: Teapots Information and Message Board
- Food.com: The Teapot Collector's Club! Show us your Tea Pots!
- The American Society of Appraisers