Items as small as a hairpin and as big as a chunk of the Titanic's hull are among 5,000 artifacts from the world's most famous shipwreck that are to be auctioned in April, close to the 100th anniversary of the disaster.
Nearly a century after the April 15, 1912, sinking of the ocean liner that hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic, a New York City auction is being readied by Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers.
That auction house has garnered headlines in the past by selling off such historical curiosities as prized Beatles photos, famous jewels of the late Princess Diana, beloved Jerry Garcia guitars and a police motorcycle used in the Texas motorcade when John F. Kennedy was slain. But nothing as titanic as the so-called Titanic collection.
On April 11, all of the salvaged items are to be sold as one lot in what Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger describes as the most significant auction ever handled by that house.
"Who on this planet doesn't know the story of the Titanic and isn't fascinated by it?" he asked. "Could Hollywood have scripted a more tragic or goose-bump-raising story than what actually happened on that ship?"
The auction will be conducted 100 years plus a day after the Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, embarking on the ill-fated maiden voyage that had New York as its destination.
The collection was appraised in 2007 at $192 million Cdn, including some intellectual property alongside the myriad items plucked by remote controlled probes from the pitch-black depths, some four kilometres below the ocean's surface.
Those artifacts include the massive hull section called "The Big Piece" as well as personal belongings of passengers and crew, such as a mesh purse and eyeglasses. A bronze cherub that once adorned the Grand Staircase is also among the collection, as are fine china, table settings, bottles and ship fittings — even the stand upon which the ship's wheel stood.
By court order, the items cannot be sold individually and must go to a buyer who agrees to properly maintain the collection and make it available for occasional public viewing. The sale is subject to court approval.
The Titanic's sinking claimed the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,228 passengers and crew. An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 600 kilometres off Newfoundland.