(photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — The Great Treasure Hunt has brought its search to Santa Monica, and residents are digging up buried gems to exchange for some treasure of their own. The North Carolina-based company, operating in the style of “Antiques Roadshow,” sent a crew of three to see what locals here had to offer, led by team captain Chris Wagner.

The group set up shop Tuesday at the Sheraton Delfina, where they will remain until Saturday.

“We look for rare items of good value,” Wagner said. “Some items, you just know.”

Wagner, whose desk at the hotel was piled high with old comic books, and his team members appraise the items residents bring before them. It’s their job to assess the true value of the objects and compensate in cash accordingly.

The company mainly searches for old items such as vintage toys, instruments and autographs. Wagner specializes in comics, sport memorabilia and U.S. coins. He said one man this week brought in an interesting sword — the company sees a lot of swords and bayonets from World Wars I and II — but otherwise the people of Santa Monica have not produced many show-stopping pieces.

“I haven’t seen anything too crazy this week,” said Wagner. “Most of what we see doesn’t fit the bill.”

He said due to the economic climate in the past year and a half, more people began selling old objects to bring in extra cash. Others come in simply because they are curious. They find pieces when moving into new houses or wonder about the value of a keepsake passed down from family members.

One such curious man who ventured to the Great Treasure Hunt event was Werner Kessling. Kessling showed up with a mid-1950s Disneyland beer stein in tow. He bought the stein from a thrift store for $1.50. The mug, with the image of a castle sweeping across its surface, was appraised at around $30. A similar one had recently sold for the same price on eBay.

“I though it might be an antique or something,” Kessling said. “But it’s more sentimental.”

He decided against parting with the beer stein.

Wagner said there are four to five teams similar to his traveling around the country any given week. Wagner’s group, for example, was recently in Santa Barbara and will soon make their way to Ontario, Calif. However, he and his team will be at the Sheraton from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday before packing up and continuing their treasure hunt elsewhere.


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