SANTA CLARA -- They flocked to the Santa Clara Convention Center with all manner of relics and the hope of discovering that their heretofore unseen treasures hold a lot more than personal value.
Trucking dollies loaded with old furniture, lugging paintings -- and even shouldering musty rifles -- thousands of Bay Area residents braved long lines and expert scrutiny Saturday to be part of the venerated PBS staple "Antiques Roadshow," which made Santa Clara the second stop in an eight-city summer tour across the United States. It was the program's first time in the Bay Area since a visit to San Jose in 2009.
Emile was among those who got good news as one of the rare entrants chosen for a taped segment, for his framed 1920s-era caricature map of San Francisco. It was distinguished by the absence of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges and the depiction of a defunct trolley line that went to the Sutro Baths, as well as four cemeteries in the middle of the city.
After buying it from a personal owner for $140, he learned from Christopher Lane, appraiser for the Denver-based Philadelphia Print Shop West, that recent trends have made it worth 10 times that.
"I liked it a lot before, and I like it a whole lot more now," Emile said.
Like all participants whose possessions were examined by the program's nationally renowned assembly of appraisers, Emile was barred from publicly revealing his last name and hometown -- which producers said was for security purposes. Emile did say he was a fourth-generation resident of a city whose cartography had just earned a good deal more significance for him.
Lane said the maps were practically throwaways during the era when they were printed, but within the past five years have become a cultural darling.
"Five to 10 years ago, these were worth nothing, and now they're the hottest thing," Lane said. "People started paying attention to them and how wonderful they are. And they've gotten quite scarce since people would just tack them to a wall."
The maps that did survive their intended expendability are getting swallowed up by museums and personal collections, making a find like Emile's pristine, framed incarnation the kind of rarity "Antiques Roadshow" has in mind.
"This (map) might come up two or three times over the next decade," Lane said.
Emile doesn't plan to cash in on his new, albeit modest, windfall. He says it will stay in his home's front hallway.
"I'd miss it," he said. "I find something new in it every day."
Most people whose item gets a glowing appraisal on the show make the same decision, longtime Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said.
"No matter what the worth, they don't sell it," she said.
Myriad reasons can be behind the choice, she said. The item could be a family heirloom. Or owners might fear that it will appreciate steadily after selling it, making it difficult or impossible to buy back if they change their minds.
But in most instances, an item its owner hopes will be a cash bonanza turns out to be worth little. Bemko said items presented tend to be more common than their owners think and valued at $500 or less in the vast majority of cases.
Even when the monetary value is unspectacular, entrants can discover a whole new kind of worth in the process. In presenting an old set of pens made from bakelite, an early plastic, Kim learned her great grandfather was a recognized San Francisco artist at the turn of the 20th century.
"I just found this out today," said Kim, a Bay Area resident of contractually undisclosed origin. "I thought it was way cool. I knew he was an artist, but not this."
On top of that discovery, an appraisal for a separate set of pins and ribbons affirmed that her grandmother was a World War II-era ship machinist whose work was embodied by the famed "Rosie the Riveter" icon.
More than 6,000 people were expected to come through the appraisal lines for the "Antiques Roadshow" visit, stemming from 3,000 allotted entrants -- each was allowed a guest -- randomly selected from a pool of nearly 23,000 applicants. Producers said Saturday's event will yield three episodes that will air in January.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.