On an episode of Antiques Roadshow that aired earlier this year, collector Alvin Barr was thrilled to learn that one of his most unusual pieces was worth up to $50,000. Appraiser Stephen L. Fletcher compared the piece to Picasso, and guessed that it had been created on the east coast in the early 20th century.
Tonight at on 8/7c @roadshowpbs Stephen Fletcher appraises a grotesque face jug, ca. 1900.
What do you think?https://t.co/WlxEfuI9L3
— PBS (@PBS) January 11, 2016
In reality, the piece was made in an Oregon High School in the mid ‘70s.
According to the Bend Bulletin, Betsy Soule was tasked with making a pot in her ceramics class at Churchill High School. She covered her piece with memorable and odd-looking faces, but quickly forgot about the projected after graduating high school.
What happened next to the pot is unclear, but Barr eventually found it at an Oregon estate sale.
— PBS39 (@PBS39Channel) January 29, 2016
“It was up in a barn. It was covered with dirt and straw, it looked like some chicken droppings were on it. It was very dirty,” Barr said on Antiques Roadshow.
Barr “overpaid” $300 for the pot, and was shocked to learn of its “true” value on the PBS program.
Soon after the episode’s airing, Soule got a call from a friend.
“She just called me out of the blue,” said Soule told the Bend Bulletin. “She said, ‘You’ve got to get on the Internet and look up ‘Antiques Roadshow’; that weird pot you made is on there.”
Soule called up the show’s producers, and sent along a 1970s photograph of her and the pot. Fletcher has since re-appraised the pot at between $3,000 and $5,000.
“It was worth more when we didn’t know who made it,” she said. “The devil’s in the details.”
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.