Ghoulish delight

Titanic memorabilia shows up at an auction 98 years after the ship's voyage, and is immediately snapped up.

     Print Edition: June 27, 2010

Misery memorabilia has always held a macabre fascination; remember the controversy surrounding the theft of the Auschwitz death camp sign? And this one's of titanic proportions—quite literally. No wonder then that the auction of 350 lots of the ‘unsinkable' invoked unthinkable hammer prices at Henry Aldridge & Sons where Titanic memorabilia showed up 98 years after the ship's ill-fated voyage. The top seller (at £55,000, i.e., Rs 37 lakh) was a letter written by first class passenger Adolphe Saafeld to his wife.

Extraordinary in detail, the letter was written on three pages of ship stationary and, apart from details about meal offerings and design, chronicled a near collision with a ship called New York—prophetic since it was written five days before the ship's encounter with the iceberg. A set of keys that an officer mistakenly carried offboard with him before the ship was flagged off from Southampton went for £54,000 (Rs 36 lakh) while a photograph of Rosa Abbott, who survived the ice cold water after the ship sank, was bought by a private collector for £35,000 (Rs 23.7 lakh).

A set of photographs related to the ship, her passengers and crew were bought by various collectors for more than £100,000 (Rs 67.8 lakh). The wave of interest generated by this sale has given another auction house reason to up its starting bid for a deck chair, originally estimated to be worth between $75,000 (Rs 50.8 lakh) and $100,000 (67.8 lakh). But then, it's tough to put a price on history, especially on a love boat that rocked both sides of the Atlantic.

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