As It Happens

High school art project mistakenly appraised for $50,000 on Antiques Roadshow

A sculpture described as a "grotesque face jug" was appraised at $50,000 on PBS' Antique Roadshow, but that appraisal value has recently been corrected after learning that the jug did not originate from the 19th or early 20th century, but rather was made in a high school art class in the 1970s.
A pottery jug with six faces made by Betsy Soule in the 1970s. The jug was mistakenly appraised at $50,000 by the PBS program, the Antiques Roadshow. (PBS/Antiques Roadshow)

Alvin Barr's eyes nearly popped out of his head when his ugly-face pottery jug was appraised on PBS' Antiques Roadshow for $50,000. It was dated to the 19th or early 20th century.

But recently, PBS published a corrected appraisal of $3,000-$5,000 on its website after it was discovered that the jug was not as old as first thought.

"I made it sometime around 1973, or 1974, in high school art class," says Betsy Soule from her home in Oregon.

As Soule tells As it Happens host Carol Off, a friend had seen the "Grotesque Face Jug" episode of the Antiques Roadshow and called Soule to tell her about it. The friend had once owned the jug and mentioned that the "weird pot" Soule had made was on the show.

I thought Alvin Barr paid too much for it at $300.- Betsy Soule

The pottery jug has six faces on it and according to Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Stephen L. Fletcher, it appeared to be influenced by Spanish sculptor Pablo Picasso.

"It's pretty grotesque. If you put flowers in it they'd probably just wither."

Soule's friend had encouraged her to contact the Antiques Roadshow to make them aware of the error.

"They have to do those appraisals on the fly without that much information. And probably if it really was made in the time period they'd guessed it was made in, I don't know, I think that's pretty outrageous."

The photo Betsy Soule provided to the Antiques Roadshow to prove that the "grotesque face jug" was made by her in the 1970s. (Betsy Soule)

The show's staff got in touch and although Soule had no proof the jug was hers, she was able to provide a picture of herself surrounded by similar sculptures in the 1970s. She's amazed that the jug is now appraised at $3,000-$5,000.

"I thought Alvin Barr paid too much for it at $300. He bought it at a barn sale, and it was covered in dirt and chicken manure, but he just really liked it … if I'd known he was that fond of it I probably would've just given it to him."

"Have you gone on to a successful career making works of art and pottery?" asks Off.

"Are you kidding me? No, I'm just a lowly horse trainer and riding instructor," says Soule with a laugh.

Soule muses about returning to pottery one day. But when asked if those jug faces are still in her, Soule cries, "Oh God, I hope not!"

The "grotesque face jug" is appraised on the Antiques Roadshow by Stephen J. Fletcher, with owner Alvin Barr (left) looking on. (PBS/Antiques Roadshow)


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