By Jef Rietsma
Collector? Colleen Simpson.
How did your collection begin? “It started with a non-descript, pink teapot that belonged to my grandma. I remember as a little kid back in the ‘50s, she would have her coffee and she would always have that little teapot out for me. After she died, my uncle gave that teapot to me. That was in 1957.”
Simpson, who said she is not a coffee drinker and only rarely drinks tea, said not until she was an adult did she truly appreciate the sentimental value of the teapot. It remains the most-cherished piece in her collection.
When did you decide to go through your collection and take inventory? “After my husband passed away, I eventually brought out all the pieces – they had been stored in boxes for years – and decided my (three daughters) probably won’t have any desire to have these. I went through them all and the ones that are extra special I now have displayed on my newfound shelf space. It was really hard to look at the stuff on the shelves that belonged to my husband so I’m happy to have these now sitting out.”
How do you decide what to add to your collection? “I don’t necessarily seek out anything specific. A lot of my teapots are from other countries. I have a daughter who was in the Navy and she found one in Saudi Arabia. The English one was the Queen’s Jubilee that my other daughter picked up when she was in England. I have one from Italy. The little grandma one came from Chocolate Tea in Portage – I saw it and just fell in love with it. But I like color, I like shapes.”
What is the most teapots you owned at one time? “I’d say I had about 75, but I’ve given away quite a few and kept what I would consider the core, the ones that are most important to me. I have about 30 now. They were gifts or the oldest ones, not necessarily themed. I don’t regret getting rid of the ones that I did, though. I don’t believe in hoarding.”
How much do you know about each of your teapots? “I ended up spending a fair amount of time researching all my teapots, so inside each box I wrote information such as dates, what I know about them, who bought them for me or where I got them, and their approximate worth.”
What extremes have you gone to in order to secure a teapot? “I never made a habit of going out and actively look for a teapot … it would have to call out to me first. I gravitate toward shape, style or just the artistic component. But I don’t take part in teapot collector groups and I don’t go out of my way to look at garage sales. I could certainly buy some beautiful, artistic teapots but at this point in my life, there’s really no point. Less is more, in this case.”
What is the most valuable teapot you own? “I have one designed by Mary Engelbreit that my husband bought as a gift and it was $49. I believe it is now valued between $200 and $300. But sentimental value? I mean, my grandma’s teapot is priceless in my mind; I have one that belonged to my aunt and uncle that was still in the box, there’s one from my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Those are all valuable to me.”
What is the oldest teapot you own? “I have a few that were made in the 1920s, so they are now approaching 100 years old.”
What is your plan for the teapots after you’re gone? “Don’t know. If the kids don’t want them, I don’t know. I just hope they go to somebody who loves them as much as I do. My three daughters might pick a favorite or two, and I hope they do, but I really don’t know what will happen to them.”
Footnotes: A Flint native, the 75-year-old Simpson was the first senior-outreach coordinator for South County Community Services. Before that, she was a Bell Telephone operator and later ran the Bronson Hospital switchboard. She is a Sprinkle Road resident in South Portage. Her husband, Patrick, was a Vicksburg High School graduate.
By Jef Rietsma