Field Segment: Tea & Coffee Silver
HOST: Are you a coffee drinker or a tea drinker? Well, most Americans today would say that coffee is their cup of choice. But back in Colonial times, as subjects of Great Britain, tea was the favorite, and it took a revolution to change America's tastes. ROADSHOW explored this 18th century battle of the beverages at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with appraiser Reid Dunavant. HOST: We have some beautiful examples of hollowware here, and these are the kind of things that you might see on the table of any upper-class family, both in England or the United States in the 18th century.
In England, tea had become the beverage of choice by the 1700s and was exceedingly popular both to British culture as well as to the culture of the American colonies. Tea was heavily taxed, especially in the colonies. And the colonies felt they were being unfairly taxed-- taxation without representation. So they revolted in what is known today as a very famous event called the Boston Tea Party. A tea ship full of British taxed tea was anchored in Boston Harbor. A group of American colonists boarded that ship in the middle of the night and dumped all of the tea into the water. It was reported that Paul Revere was among those colonists raiding that ship. And we have an example here of a teapot made by Paul Revere. Teapots are recognizable by their squat, low form. This is a teapot on matching stand, circa 1790. This is a classical design with tassels and swags engraved on it. It has a pineapple finial, which represents hospitality, and the wooden handle, which keeps you from burning your hand. American pieces of silver like this are exceedingly valuable as opposed to their English counterparts. American examples of teapots by Paul Revere have sold for over $120,000. HOST: We have a couple of other examples here, which are coffee pots. When did we start to change from tea to coffee, and was that a taste change or was that a political statement?
I think it was actually a political statement. It evolved over time, but as a result of the Boston Tea Party and the strong associations of tea with Great Britain, Americans were looking for an alternative. Coffee was easily imported from South America and the West Indies and became a beverage of choice among American patriots. This is an American coffee pot done by the silversmith Myer Myers, who was a Jewish silversmith working in New York. It is a typical pear-shape form with a gadrooned border, as well as some molded shell accents, which were very typical designs of the 18th century. This example is circa 1760 to 1770. HOST: And we have an English example as well. Tell me about this one.
This example is done by Paul de Lamerie, who was a French Huguenot working in London. Dates from 1738. Paul de Lamerie was very prolific, and quite a few of them survive today. HOST: How can we tell the difference between an American coffee pot and an English coffee pot?
Really the only way to tell the difference is the way they're marked. The American example is going to be marked generally with just the name or the initials of the maker, and almost always on the bottom. And English examples can be marked on the side or on the bottom, and sometimes within the design that they have a very specific series of hallmarks. Most coffee pots are not as extraordinary as this one by Paul de Lamerie. More ordinary examples bring a few thousand dollars. Other coffee pots by Paul de Lamerie have sold for around $25,000 when they've come for auction. American examples, however, such as examples by Myer Myers, are exceedingly rare. In fact, there are only 14 known examples in existence today. One of those sold at auction not so long ago for over $120,000. There are also very few examples known by Paul Revere of coffee pots-- in fact, fewer than 15 known examples today-- and an example by Paul Revere sold for $700,000. HOST: That's something to look for is that Paul Revere mark on the bottom of a coffee pot. Thank you for the history of not only these teapots and the makers, but tea and coffee in America. Thank you.
Thank you, Mark.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.