Ah, the Antiques Roadshow. A place where dreams are made, money is earned, crowds are wowed… and experts get it incredibly wrong.
In an episode of the US version of our beloved classic Sunday evening show, antiques 'pro' Stephen L Fletcher was presented with a 30cm jug decorated with six, er, absolutely hideous faces.
The owner, Alvin Barr from South Carolina, told the show that he’d found the piece at an estate sale in Oregon, where it was “covered with dirt and straw… and some chicken droppings". He loved the piece so much, he coughed up $300 to take it home.
On examining the jug, Fletcher concluded that in his hands was an item from “the late 19th century”, before boldly noting that “you can even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here.” He really, really shouldn't have said that.
Barr’s day was well and truly made when Fletcher put a whopping great estimate of up to $50,000 (£35,000) on the butt-ugly jug. Barr must have had dollar signs rolling back in his eyes at that point.
But his jubilation has just been dealt a hammer blow and smashed to pieces.
On seeing the show, one eagle-eyed viewer phoned into the program to let them know that the big money Picasso-esque piece was, actually, made by her pal Betsy Soule, from Oregon, in a high school art class back in the early 70s.
“I was just a really passionate, artistic kid,” Soule told local paper, the Bend Bulletin. “I don’t know where those faces came from; they just came roaring out of me on to those pots.”
“This example, with its six grotesque faces, was modeled or sculpted with considerable imagination, virtuosity and technical competence,” Fletcher later said. “Obviously, I was mistaken as to its age by 60 to 80 years. I feel the value at auction, based on its quality and artistic merit, is in the $3,000-$5,000 range. Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”
Yeah, don’t give up your day job Fletcher. Oh.