Recently on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, an art appraisal went very wrong. An Oregon man who presented a clay jug to one of the program’s apparent expert appraisers received word that it dated to the late 19th century, had emerged somewhere in the “Middle Atlantic states headed southward,” and had a value of up to $50,000. However, it turned out to be the creation of fellow Oregonian Betsy Soule, sculpted in her high school ceramics class in the 1970s.
Owner Alvin Barr had bought the pot, decorated with six beast-like faces, at an estate sale in a barn in Eugene, Oregon, for $300. He was naturally short of breath when Antiques Roadshow‘s bespectacled expert appraiser Stephen L. Fletcher (specializing in clocks, decorative arts, folk art, and furniture) revealed its alleged market value.
“It was covered with dirt and straw,” Barr told Fletcher. “Looked like some chicken droppings were on it. It was very dirty. I had to have it. It speaks to me … it was saying, ‘I’m very unusual … I’m very different.’”