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Auction House Gears Up for Titanic Sale

By Amy Zimmer | March 30, 2012 2:11pm
The 17-ton hull, known as the 'Big Piece', from the Titanic wreck.
The 17-ton hull, known as the 'Big Piece', from the Titanic wreck.
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RMS Titanic Inc.

MANHATTAN — Want to own a piece of a sinking ship?

For a cool $189 million the 17-ton portion of the Titanic's hull is among more than 5,500 items recovered from the ocean floor from the wreckage of the legendary ocean liner be auctioned off as one massive collection on April 11 — the 100th anniversary of the ship's doomed maiden voyage.

The auction, at Guernsey's, on the Upper East Side, is one of many Titanic-themed events happening around the world marking the famed event where nearly 1,500 passengers and ship staff died after striking an iceberg during its trip from Southampton to New York City.

The collection includes everything from small personal effects such as a hair pin, pipe, mesh purse, sheet music and eyeglasses. Larger items include the hull (known as "the Big Piece"), a classic bronze cherub that once adorned the grand staircase, and the ship’s steering wheel stand.

The objects, according to the auction house, are classic reminders of the ship's "grandeur and tragedy."

The sale — the first and only one for objects recovered from the site — are being auctioned off by RMS Titanic Inc., a division of Premier Exhibitions, which for 18 years has been overseeing the recovery efforts at the wreck site. Also included videos of the dives, 3-D images of the ship and a comprehensive survey of the wreck site, Guernsey's said.

The buyer will have to follow certain rules to ensure the collection will be properly maintained and made available for public display.  Bids must be submitted by Monday.

For years, research expeditions launched failed attempts at finding the wreck until 1985 when a joint American and French team located the ship more than two miles beneath the icy waters more than 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia.  Over the next 25 years, seven more expeditions, using state-of-the-art technology, recovered and preserved thousands of artifacts, according to Guernsey's.

The ship "is slowly being consumed by iron-eating microbes on the sea floor and, at some point in the not-too-distant future, it will be only a memory," Mark Sellers, chairman of Premier Exhibitions, said in a statement.

More than 25 million people around the world have already viewed a sampling of Titanic artifacts, Premier noted. 

"Many of the artifacts we've brought up from the site would have disintegrated and been lost forever had this company not risked life and limb, and spent millions of dollars and countless hours to raise and rehabilitate them using cutting-edge conservation techniques," Sellers said. "We believe we have faithfully honored the legacy of those who were lost."