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The Hideous Jug That Duped ‘Antiques Roadshow’

It was mistakenly appraised for up to $50,000.

 

Usually the appraisers on the hypnotic PBS hit, Antiques Roadshow, seem to be pretty spot on with their appraisals of the knick-knacks and furniture that cross their path, but every once in a while, even the experts make a mistake.

Such an error occurred last year, when one expert priced a (seemingly purposefully) ugly jug at up to $50,000, Hyperallergic pointed out. But, as it turns out, it was simply a high school art project worth much less.

The item itself is a crude ceramic jug covered in grotesque faces both large and small, made from simple glazed clay. When the show aired, in a segment called “Grotesque Face Jug,” appraiser Stephen L. Fletcher was quite impressed with the piece, praising it for the unique, detailed faces. His guess as to the pot’s origin was incredibly specific, dating the piece back to around the turn of the 19th century, having been made somewhere in the “middle-Atlantic states, headed southward.” Fletcher then priced the piece at between $30,000 and $50,000. Alvin Barr, who had originally paid just $300 for the item, was stunned.

But as it was later reported in the (Bend, Oregon) Bulletin, the jug was actually a high school art project created in 1973 by Betsy Soule, who now works as a horse trainer. Once Fletcher was informed of the true origins of the piece, he gave it a new valuation at $3,000 - $5,000, dropping a couple of zeroes, but still pricing it much higher than one might expect for a high schooler’s project. (The show also issued a correction on its website.)

According to the Bulletin, Barr is actually happier with the lower appraisal, saying, “I hated it when it was $30,000 to $50,000, because who wants $30,000 to $50,000 lying around their house?” He now keeps the monstrous jug on a table.