The ceramic jug, made in the 1970s, was thought to be a late 19th century masterpiece
The long-running appraisal show the Antiques Roadshow has long been a guessing game for viewers, who watch in wonder at the value the experts will deem some piece of silver or cracked oil painting to have earned in its years spent in a dusty attic. But now the US version of the show has been forced to retract one of its expert’s valuations, after he appraised a late 19th-century ceramic piece as being worth up to $50,000 (€44,000), when it turned out to have been made for a high school art class in the 1970s.
Owner Alvin Barr has picked up the accurately named Grotesque Face Jug at an estate sale in Eugene, Oregon, for $300. He therefore displayed the best of the possible Antiques Roadshow reactions when expert appraiser Stephen L Fletcher, who specialised in clocks, decorative arts, folk art and furniture, told him it was worth almost $50,000.
Looking at the jug, Fletcher pours considerable praise over what he deems to be an incredible example of pottery. “This, in its own way, is really over the top. It’s bizarre and wonderful,” he says.
“You can even see a little bit of... like... Pablo Picasso going on here. It’s a little difficult to identify precisely when this was made, but I think it’s probably late 19th or early 20th century.”
“It was covered with dirt and straw,” a delighted Barr said at the time, “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.’”
Well, unfortunately for Barr and Fletcher, they weren’t the only one the six-faced jug was speaking to, as the ceramic piece’s creator Betsy Soule, who created the jug as a high school homework assignment, called PBS to explain the appraisal was a bit off. Now PBS, which airs the American version of the show, has issued an online correction to the valuation, lowering it to between $3,000 and $5,000.