When an episode of the long-running show was filming in Spokane, Washington, dedicated thrifter and estate sale attendee Alvin Barr came to the show's pre-approval desk with a glazed redware jug standing at just under twelve-inches tall, and embossed with a series of decorated faces on the rounded surface.
Barr had apparently come across the unusual jug while at an estate sale in Eugene, Oregon, "It was covered with dirt and straw, and some chicken droppings," said Barr. After a little brush-off, I suddenly realized, "I simply had to have it,” and forked over $300 to the sales owner. "It somehow spoke to me,” he later said.
To Barr's surprise, he was bumped up to Roadshow appraiser, Stephen Fletcher (who seemed similarly enthused), and gave the piece of redware pottery a date that placed it sometime in the 19th century. Fletcher was so enamored with the piece, he even commented that, "...you could even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here.” With remarkable assuredness, Fletcher went on to put the jug's retail value in the neighborhood of between $30,000 to $50,000.
The problem was, it wasn't worth that at all.
Nor did the jug come from any period in the Victorian era either. The grotesque face jug, as it became known on the set, was in fact not centuries old, but rather made in 1973 by a young woman attending a high school ceramics class. While watching the show, a friend recognized the piece, and contacted the Roadshow to let them know that the artist in question, was one Betsy Soule, a horse trainer from Oregon. Soule claimed she just made whatever popped into her head in those days, "You know, It was high school..."
When contacted about the piece by other media outlets, Soule went on to express surprise, and stated, "I thought Alvin Barr paid too much for it at $300."
PBS immediately corrected the "error" on the station's website, once the jug's creative source became clear. As for appraisal expert Fletcher, he sheepishly admitted that the whole incident would have to be written up as a learning experience. “Obviously, I was mistaken as to its age by 60 to 80 years. I feel the value at auction, based on its quality and artistic merit, is in the $3,000-$5,000 range. Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”
That's quite possibly true, but for the uninitiated hoping to make a career out of potting (or collecting and selling antiques), perhaps that assessment should be taken with a grain of salt too...
- A.I.A. Writer's Staff
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