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Antique Roadshow’s $73k error

An Antiques Roadshow appraiser valued an old high school artwork at a whopping $73,000.
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Antiques Roadshow is an opportunity for members of the public to bring in their family heirlooms and random finds to be valued at (hopefully) an insanely high price.

But a recent episode of the US version, filmed in Washington, revealed an embarrassing gaffe in which an appraisal went very wrong.

A South Carolina man by the name of Alvin Barr had previously bought a piece of pottery for $300 in an estate sale which he brought onto the show.

He said: “It was up in barn. It was covered with dirt and straw. Looked like some chicken droppings were on it. It was very dirty. I had to have it. It speaks to me.”

The appraiser Stephen L. Fletcher began examining the bizarre piece and found it so fascinating that he valued it at $50,000 (NZ$73,000).

He said: “You even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here. It’s a little difficult to identify precisely when this was made, but I think it’s probably late 19th or early 20th century.”

And that’s when it all went hilariously wrong.

Betsy Soule got a call from a friend who was watching the show and recognised the piece – Betsy actually made it in her high school ceramics class in the 1970s.

Ms Soule then got in touch with the show and sent in a photo of herself with similar-looking pots she’s made.


Antique Roadshow scrambled to make a change in the appraisal, changing the valuation on their website to between US$3,000-5,000.

Mr Fletcher responded with: “As far as its age is concerned, I was fooled, as were some of my colleagues … Still, not bad for a high-schooler in Oregon.”

He also praised the young student’s skill, saying in a statement: “We have sold at auction several examples from the 19th century — all of which are from the eastern half of the United States, and have a single grotesque face — some for five figures.”

“This example, with its six grotesque faces, was modelled or sculpted with considerable imagination, virtuosity and technical competence … the techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries.”

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