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An Auction to Remember

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Would you like to own several thousand pieces of the most famous shipwreck in history? Then you better take out a new line of credit.

More than 5,500 items salvaged from the wreck of the RMS Titanic are headed for the auction block. On April 11, exactly one century after the ill-fated ship embarked on its first and last voyage, Guernsey’s Auction House in New York will begin taking bids on an incredible collection of relics discovered and hauled up from the ocean floor.

It’s a winner-take-all affair, and the complete set has been appraised at $189 million.

“It’s one of the most significant and extraordinary collections on the face of the earth,” says Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey. The artifacts, which were salvaged during seven expeditions over more than a decade, include fine china, nautical instruments, ship fittings, pieces of the hull, and hundreds of personal effects such as wallets, photos, perfume bottles, and a diamond necklace that spells out the name Amy

P.H. Nargeloet, who oversaw the salvage efforts, recalled poignant moments in his submersible on the ocean floor when he would discover a personal item. “I would be thinking about the tragedy,” he said. “You could feel how cold the water was.”

The Titanic was carrying more than 2,200 passengers and crew when she struck an iceberg about 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 people died in one of the worst civilian shipwrecks in history. Robert Ballard discovered the wreck in 1985, and salvage efforts began in 1987.

The winning bid will be announced on April 15, the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. The collection comes with strict rules regarding the treatment of the artifacts: The winner must keep the collection together and make it available for public viewing.  PMY