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Junk to treasure: Alabama couple sell jug for $100,000

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A junk store find brings an Alabama couple $100,000. (WBRC)

For some 40 years, a clay jug adorned the Morris family home in rural Alabama. 

But unbeknown to the family, the $12 junk store find -- which, at first, had irked Janice Morris and frightened the children -- was worth a pretty penny. In fact, the jug that often stored loose change in the Morris household was worth $100,000, according to WBRC.

"We'd always look for something out of the ordinary," Robert Morris said of why he bought the jug.
His wife, Janice, was less keen, at the time.

"He picked that jug up. I said, 'Why are you getting that?'"

"I said, 'Because I like it,'" Robert recalls. 

Like any knick-knack, or at least, what was seemingly an inexpensive decoration, the jug endured a few hits. 

"We kicked it around for years," Robert told WBRC. "I kept change in it. The kids played with it."

"At first, [the children] were afraid of it so we started dressing him up," Janice said, referring to the jug.

A few months ago, Robert gave the jug to his granddaughter, letting her know that it might be a priceless piece.

"It's folk art. It just had the look to me like it might be worth something," he said.

His granddaughter dug online, learning that the jug, for years, deemed a junk store piece, was worth a ton. She returned the jug to her grandfather.

According to the Daily Home, the jug is one of three created by German-born artist John Lehman in Randolph County, Alabama, after the Civil War. 

It depicts a black man, wearing hoop earrings and formal attire, with J.L., the artist's initials, stamped in the jacket lapels, the local newspaper reported. 

The Morris family made calls to appraisers, according to WBRC, finding that the jug was indeed "very valuable."

The jug sold for $100,000 to the Birmingham Museum of Art last month, the Daily Home reported.

"When this one came forward, we really couldn't believe it," museum director Gail Andrews told the Daily Home.

"It was very exciting, because we want to have the best collection of Alabama pottery in the world. The artist is so important, and it's a rare piece, and of course, Mr. Morris' story of buying it 40-plus years ago in a junk store was just great. We love that it had survived all those years on the floor of his family room."

She says the jug needs a repair near the lips.

According to the Daily Home, Robert gave a third of the profit to his granddaughter to help her pay for nursing school.

Though, Janice was not a huge fan of the jug then, it is on her good side now.

"Let me say, I believe I like him a little bit better," she told WBRC. 

Have you ever purchased an item at a garage sale or junk store that ended up being worth more than you spent? Share your stories.

Tags: Alabama, Art, Junk Store, Museum, Talladega

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