Teapots have a cheerful, cozy look that has attracted collectors since they first were made in China's Ming Dynasty -- shortly after tea infusion became popular.
In the centuries that followed, teapots were produced in a variety of materials, sizes, shapes and styles -- some of them highly valued. In fact, a porcelain Worcester "harlequin" teapot sold at auction for $110,000 in 2006, and a Chinese silver teapot sold for more than $7,000 in 2011. Although yours would likely sell for less, you may still want to know your teapot's worth.
Handle your teapot with care. Examine the material. Is it porcelain, ceramic, silver or pewter? Is it small -- one-cup serving -- or larger? Is it rounded, oval, boxy or a novelty shape? What are the decorations and colors? Note the facts determined through your examination.
Take off the lid, and turn your teapot upside down. Does it have a mark or label? This may eventually help you determine both its age and country of origin. A magnifying glass may help. Write down any words, and photograph any marks.
Get busy with the research. Reference books and price guides are a great starting point. Scour the Internet for collectors' groups that specialize in your area of interest -- for instance, Japanese teapots, silver sets or British ceramics by a particular maker. For a primer on types of ceramics, stoneware and porcelain, check the Collect Antiques Ceramics website. It also has a free guide to antique markings.
Connect with other collectors. Find collectors' clubs or meetups -- or start one. Go to antique stores and shows, and talk to the experts. Many websites allow you to email a photo and ask whether anyone is familiar with a collectible like yours.
Look at the big picture. As with any antique or collectible, the value will depend on rarity, age, market trends and, of course, condition. Teapots were often well-used household items, so check for crazing, tea stains and chips -- especially near the top or around the spout.