Archive for July, 2009

Collecting and Caring for Vintage Teacups

posted by Karen Hood
Saturday, July 25, 2009

by Brenda Hyde
Source: Old Fashioned Living

I’ve been collecting teacups and teapots for at least 20 years now. I love them all, and look for bargains whenever I can, plus I splurge on new items now and then too. Today I have tips on the type of teacups you might find and a few on storage and care.

Porcelain or China?

When you see descriptions you find that porcelain and bone china is often mentioned. Porcelain is fired, then glazed, and fired again, which allows for a very refined dish. The designs are often very detailed and dainty. Bone china is made similar to porcelain, but finely ground bone ash is added to the clay. It’s considered the strongest china and is very white. Fine china or fine ivory china is also very strong and similar to the bone china. Sometimes it will be strengthened with special treatments. Casual china is something other than bone or fine. It could be stoneware or earthenware, and you’ll notice it’s heavier, not as dainty.

Types of Teacups

There are many types of teacups available. The teacups we tend to use for the traditional afternoon tea are the footed cup and the flat teacup. The footed cup which usually has a saucer, can be used for coffee or tea. It has design where the cup is shaped at the bottom like a pedestal–it will fit into the saucer, which should be indented.

Flat cups will also most likely have a matching saucer, but are flat on the bottom, instead of shaped. These can also be used for coffee or tea as well.

Often you’ll see Demitasse cups and saucers, which are lovely, but traditionally are used for expresso or Turkish coffee. They are much smaller, and work well for childrens’ tea parties. Tea and coffee mugs come in all shapes and sizes, and are especially nice for breakfast tea. They are informal and I love looking for whimsical designs to add to my collection.

Teacup Care

Never stack your cups more than two high, and if you have room, it’s better not to stack. Place soft cloth between the cups if you do store them where they will be touching.

China shouldn’t be washed in the dishwasher, especially if it’s vintage. Newer designs will often say they are dishwasher safe, but if you plan on keeping them in the family and handing them down later, it’s best to handwash with a gentle dishsoap and dry with a soft towel.

If you display your tea pieces be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight, and gently wash them twice a year or so. Better yet, it’s nice to rotate the ones you use!

A note on metallic trim, which is found on some teacups. These should never be placed in the microwave. If the trim tarnishes you can use a silver cleaner on it, but VERY gently.

One more note on collecting: Expensive tea sets are beautiful, but be sure if you spend the money to own a nice set that you use it. It doesn’t truly become special until you have memories to go along with it!

Shop now for teacups at Karen’s Collector’s Cottage.

The Fascinating World of Teacups

posted by Karen Hood
Friday, July 24, 2009

by Mary Emma Allen
Source: Old Fashioned Living

Within the world of tea parties, lies the hobby of collecting teacups and learning about their use. This interest also can evolve into accumulating teapots and tea sets, tea and tea party related items…whatever you have space for displaying and storing.

My daughter’s and my problem is finding room in our multi-generational household for displaying and storing those we’ve collected or have had handed down from previous generations. Currently some of these are packed away in boxes.

At one house where my daughter lived, there was a large old-fashioned kitchen with space on top of cabinets, which ranged the room. Here she displayed teapots, fruit jars, and cookie jars.

Collecting Tea Cups

One of my aunts collected teacups and saucers in her travels and displayed them in her dining room, in a china cabinet and on shelves. Some were decorated with floral and fruit designs; others might have a picture noting the placed where she purchased it. Interspersed among her tea cups were plates from various states she visited.

I recall, as a child, being fascinated by Aunt Freda’s collection. I enjoyed listening to her tell me where and how she acquired them. They somewhat told a story about portions of her life.

A friend collects teacups and mugs to give away. When she needs a thank you or birthday gift, she often places a cup and saucer or mug in a napkin lined basked, some tea bags or packets of hot chocolate. She also might include some cookie treats to accompany them.

Cups and Saucers

When my daughter picked up a pretty saucer at a second hand store and my grandson asked what it was for, I realized that we’d gotten into the habit of using mugs for all our beverages. The grandchildren didn’t know that once cups were always used with saucers.

Most people nowadays use mugs. These often keep the beverage hot longer and make for fewer dishes to wash and store. However, mugs have come into frequent use fairly recently. I don’t think my mom or grandmother even possessed a mug during the days of my childhood. They generally used saucers with cups even though it meant more dishes to wash.

This was a place for laying your spoon after adding sugar and stirring your beverage. You also could place your tea bag here, instead of trying to find a space where it wouldn’t soil the table or tablecloth.

Some people also used saucers for cooling hot beverages! I recall my dad and the hired man pouring their coffee into their saucers, blowing onto it, then tipping the saucer to their lips. This practice was considered acceptable, at least at home. (I don’t think Father ever did this when dining out.)

Tea Versus Coffee Cups

There also was a distinction between tea and coffee cups, as I recall. Those for serving coffee were larger than the ones we used for tea. From this probably evolved the coffee mug that didn’t need a saucer.

Also, in older recipes, like those found in my aunt’s handwritten notebook, you find instructions, which call for a coffee cup or teacup of ingredients. In those days before sets of measuring cups could be purchased, homemakers used a coffee cup when they wanted a larger amount.

Shop now for collectible teacups at Karen’s Collector’s Cottage.

History of the Teapot Part Two: Teapots in the 20th Century

posted by Karen Hood
Thursday, July 23, 2009

by Vince McDonald

During the middle of the 19th Century, afternoon tea drinking had become a national institution and many more weird and wonderful teapots had been cast into the shapes of birds, animals, fish, etc. Led by the Staffordshire firms of George Jones and Minton, today these are extremely rare and very desirable, collectable teapots. As a result of the great variety of teapots produced, there became a richness of imagination, inventiveness, and humour, unparalleled in any other collectors’ art. In late Victorian times novelty teapots, adapted to contemporary tastes, were sold by the thousands and established their own classic themes of Dickens characters and endearing animals.

As we entered the 20th Century, all manner of these teapots were being produced to commemorate Silver Jubilees, Coronations, and special events. The First World War in 1914 curtailed both production and interest in these whimsical teapots and it was not until the 1920’s that somewhere near normal production resumed and once again, the novelty collectable teapot was back in business. During the 1920’s and 1930’s a new breed of designer potters in the shape of Clarice Cliff and Suzie Cooper and the Art Deco movement produced a new range of novelty teapots for people to collect. Teapots were sold at fairs and markets, in souvenir shops or given as presents; they were often a reminder of a happy day on holiday, or an impulse buy, so in general they were quite cheap and did not claim a lot of artistic merit. Teapots from this era bring extremely big money in today’s collectable world, especially the Clarice Cliff ones, many reaching up to £12,000.

Before the Second World War in 1939, the firm of James Sadler & Sons of Stoke-on-Trent, England produced many very collectable novelty teapots in the shape of cars, aeroplanes, fighting tanks, etc. These today have also become very collectable but do not realise the same values as, say, the Clarice Cliff ones. Once again, a World War curtailed production and it was not until the 1950s that the novelty teapot re-emerged to be made in any sort of collectable numbers. Cottages, animals, and all variety of seaside novelties were produced to cater for the spare cash that was now being generated.

During the 1970’s a new breed of potters were leaving college and were eager to put new ideas into practice and names such as Richard Parrington, Roger Michell, etc., were making their mark in the teapot world. Their small cottage companies were churning out novelty teapots in small edition sizes; each design was swiftly followed by a new one and that is why they have become very collectable today, due to the very small numbers produced. The firm of Fitz & Floyd made big inroads into the teapot world in the United States of America, producing many different designs, but usually in a high volume output, making them not quite as desirable as the rarer pieces.

Novelty teapots are a comparatively new field for collectors, although examples have been included in collections of ceramics for many years – there are some famous ones in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, England. Whilst the variety of teapots has grown, the survivors of the previous generations have dwindled, adding the spice of rarity to collecting.

Points to look out for when collecting novelty teapots are a good design coupled with a very low factory output, as this creates the scenario of not enough to go round. Teapots like this will almost certainly be amongst the most desirable ones. Someone once said – and it was probably me – that all teapots are collectable, BUT some more than others.

In England there are many, many collectors fairs every day, which is fine in a small country such as ours, but the whole concept of collecting is now changing due to the World Wide Web. Information is now freely passed from country to country and collectors are not in the dark any more. During the last six or seven years the major auction site – – has brought collecting to even the most inaccessible parts of the world and teapots are being traded easily from one country to another. It was, until recently, unheard of to find American designed teapots in England but I know that some of the Sigma teapots are much sought after, as they are in the States, and many of the English teapots have found their way to America due to the World Wide Web’s influence. Our teapot collectors site has been gaining good ground and recognition and for any budding new collectors, we would welcome your involvement.

For a new collector just starting, it would be wise to log onto eBay’s auction site and just keep your eye on things for a few weeks to get a feel for what is happening and what is being paid for certain items. Usually, the majority of the world’s collectors will know what’s what and if a new collector follows their guidance, they won’t go far wrong.

Shop now for teapots at Karen’s Collector’s Cottage.