Imagine creating a piece of art in a high school art class. You put a lot of effort into it, and you are proud of the final result, but it’s just a grade. This is the kind of art that doesn’t follow you when you move out, staying behind in your parents’ house or going in the dumpster without a second thought. You forget the piece completely and move on with your life.
Young Betsy Soule with art she created in high school Credit: PBS
Now, imagine receiving a phone call over forty years later from an old high school friend, who tells you to go online and look up a new appraisal from Antiques Roadshow. You do, and you find that the piece of art you made was featured on the popular and long-standing show, appraised at $30,000-$50,000.
As you can imagine, Oregon horse trainer Betsy Soule was pretty surprised when she was in this very situation, which was almost as bizarre as the jug she made in the 1970’s. “The whole thing was shocking,” Soule told The Huffington Post in an interview. “I’ve laughed about it for weeks.”
According to a recent article from The Washington Post, the strange piece of pottery, dubbed “grotesque face jug,” was brought on the show by Alvin Barr, an antiques broker living in Oregon. He found the piece of pottery in a barn at an estate sale and was impressed by its uniqueness. On a whim, he paid $300 for it and took it home.
Barr was shocked when appraiser Stephen Fletcher told him that the piece could be worth up to $50,000. Fletcher said that the jug’s value lied in the “impressive array of techniques” used to make the faces of varying textures and shapes, as well as the age of the piece. He estimated that it was made in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. He had “never seen anything quite like it.”
Unfortunately, while he was correct about the artistry that went into its creation, Fletcher was mistaken about the age of the “weird pot,” which he found out when the artist’s friend contacted Antiques Roadshow.
The appraisal has been corrected, with the retail value estimate now listed as $3,000-$5,000. “Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon,” Fletcher says in a note about the correction. He praises the virtuosity that went into the jug and sheepishly admits his mistake, saying, “The techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries. Obviously, I was mistaken as to its age by 60 to 80 years.”
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