To value an antique of any kind, you must first assess its condition. You should expect to see some wear and tear, but the condition of the item should also show evidence of quality; an antique of value was often a quality piece to begin with. That said, let’s take a look at how to value a specific item, the antique teapot. Though the Mayans used something like a teapot 2600 years ago, it’s unlikely you’ll find one of these while scouring the flea markets. The Chinese were using teapots in the 10th century, but again, it’s unlikely any of these are lying about in anyone’s basement. Should you come across an antique teapot, it’s very likely from Europe or North America.
Take a look at the condition of the teapot. If it is ceramic or porcelain, are there cracks, or crackling on the surface? If it is made of silver, are there worn spots? Take a look inside. Is there discolouration from years of steeping tea? Does the handle show wear from years of handling? You should see these signs of wear. A teapot in perfect condition is unlikely to be old.
Turn the pot over. Are there markings on the bottom? Whatever the material, those markings will aid you in determining the manufacturer of the teapot and possibly the year it was made. You will need reference books to decipher the markings. More on this in step 5.
Take a look at the overall shape of the teapot. In the eighteenth century the teapot went through some changes. According to Ralph and Terry Kovel, in their 1981 edition of “Know Your Antiques,” the round shape we see today was popular from 1730 through 1760, though the pear shape was popular for a brief time in 1730. The inverted pear shape was used from 1750 through 1755 and from 1790 through 1810 the sides of the pot were straight. From 1810 on through to 1835, the sides widened and grew rounder. Most teapots from the early 19th century on continue to use the rounder shape seen today. But do not think that because a teapot has straight sides, it must be an antique. To this day, teapots come in a variety of shapes. The more interesting or unusual the shape, the more collectable the piece may be. Desirability is an important factor in determining value.
Look inside the pot, to the holes that lead to the spout. If there are only three or four holes, it could indicate the pot is from the eighteenth century. The holes should look uneven; if they are perfectly round the teapot is more likely to be twentieth-century. Look at the lid of the teapot. How well does it fit onto the body? Does there seem to be wearing from years of use? If the glaze on the lip of the lid of a porcelain or ceramic pot is still perfect, it’s unlikely the pot is very old.
Let’s turn again to the markings on the bottom of the teapot. For both pottery and silver, as well as for pewter, the markings will indicate who made the teapot, and what year it was made. Deciphering these marks requires some research. You should have in your library at least one book that lists pottery marks and one book that lists silver marks. It’s impossible to memorise them all, so rely on research to determine this important factor.
The actual value of the teapot will depend first on condition. If it is in good condition with the expected wear, the value will be higher. The shape of the teapot will also indicate value. An unusual shape can create desirability, which increases value. But shape also aids in determining age. If you believe you have a Georgian silver teapot, for example, the shape needs to be right. Finally, the markings will aid in evaluating your teapot. Manufacturers changed the markings periodically, and this will indicate the year. The style of the teapot should correspond with the year.
Condition, shape and desirability, and verification through markings will provide you with a set of factors to determine the value of your teapot. If you have a documented history of the teapot, or a provenance, this will add value. Most price guides use the manufacturer to index the guide. Look up the manufacturer in a current price guide and you should be able to see a current value listed. However, this value is based on the item being authentic and in good condition, and is only a general guide as to the monetary value.
- Condition is the most important factor. If the spout is broken off and the lid is missing, the value goes way, way down.
- How a teapot is decorated can help date it. Decorated items often reflect the design style of the time.
- Visit antique shops and speak with the experts. Learn from them.