Apparently Winnie-the-Pooh's honey pot isn't filled with gold for Goodwill after all.
A London art expert said Tuesday that an illustration of the famous bear that Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire billed as authentic and sold on the organization's online auction site last week for $7,618 is a fake, and a poorly done one at that.
"It's very, very badly drawn. Most schoolchildren could have done better than that," Chris Beetles said.
Cloverdale Winnie-The-Pooh Sketch Find
Beetles is an expert in the works of Ernest Howard Shepard, an English artist and book illustrator who is best known for his collaboration with author A.A. Milne on the original Pooh books.
Goodwill officials thought they had a Shepard original on their hands with a 14-by-11-inch ink drawing that was donated at the Cloverdale store. The illustration depicts Pooh standing on a branch at Owl's house deciding whether he should ring the bell or knock.
Beetles told The Press Democrat on Tuesday that if the drawing was genuine, it would be worth in excess of $200,000. He said the piece sold by Goodwill last week to an unidentified bidder "is so terrible, it's not even close."
Goodwill officials announced Tuesday that they were suspending the transaction and contacting the buyer, who had not yet paid. Officials also acknowledged errors in how they conducted the auction, starting with not attempting to authenticate the illustration.
"Clearly, we are not art experts. We should not have represented this as an original Shepard piece," said Mark Ihde, the CEO of the Redwood Empire Goodwill.
Ihde said there was no malicious intent or attempt to deceive on the part of the employee who wrote the description for the illustration. He said the employee was "just excited. Definitely it was an error."
Goodwill stores nationwide have had good fortune in recent years selling donated items that turn out to be valuable works of art.