Sometimes even Antiques Roadshow makes a mistake: An ugly face jug that the show appraised at $50,000 last year, calling it “bizarre and wonderful” and assigning it to the late 19th or early 20th century, was actually made in an Oregon high school art class in the ’70s. The artist, a Bend, Oregon horse trainer named Betsy Soule, came forward after a friend recognized her piece on the show. It has since been re-appraised for between $3,000 and $5,000.
Though the show is always clear to note that its appraisals are “verbal approximations of value” presented in context, errors like this have hardly ever occurred on Roadshow. The object’s onscreen appraiser, Stephen L. Fletcher, released a statement attempting to exonerate himself, saying, “as far as its age is concerned, I was fooled, as were some of my colleagues.” As he notes, Soule’s technique is fairly reminiscent of other grotesque jugs made in the U.S. in the 19th century, many of which are highly collectible now. As Fletcher notes, “The techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries…Still, not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”
The object’s owner, Alvin Barr, said he actually likes the jug more now that he knows it’s more affordable. An antiques dealer himself, Barr paid $300 for the jug at an estate sale, but told The Bend Bulletin that when he found out it could be worth $50,000, he freaked out and packed it away behind a couch. As he puts it, ““I hated it when it was $30,000 to $50,000, because who wants $30,000 to $50,000 lying around their house? Now, it’s on my table, and I love it.”