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Pricey relics

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Titanic artifacts put on the auction block

Titanic artifacts put on the auction block

A menu from the last meal served on board sold for close to $90,000

After 92 years, the Titanic finally arrived in New York City — or at least parts of it did.

More than 100 bidders and spectators gathered in June at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan to bid on more than 500 artifacts salvaged from the luxury liner, in addition to other related memorabilia.

The most expensive item sold was a first-class dinner menu from the final meal served aboard the ship. The menu is one of only three of its kind known to be in existence and fetched $88,500 from an unidentified telephone bidder. It was one of the highest amounts ever paid for a Titanic item, according to experts.

Other items sold included a portrait of the liner for $38,000, a piece of staircase for $23,000, and a signed piece of ship’s stationary for $20,000. Letters, postcards, life jackets and a 22-foot model of the Titanic also were auctioned.

Paul Burns, vice president of Titanic - The Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., paid $8,500 for a deck chair and $4,750 for a trunk plucked from the flotsam the night of the disaster. He also acquired a pocket watch, a White Star Line flag and other items. The artifacts will be displayed at the museum, which draws around 200,000 visitors each year (www.titanicshipofdreams.com).

The “Titanic and Other Legendary Liners” auction was one of the largest ever for Titanic artifacts. Items from the Normandie, Olympic, Lusitania and Andrea Doria also were on the block. The June 10 auction, organized by Guernsey’s of New York City, didn’t generate as much in sales as had been anticipated, but it generated considerable public interest, according to organizers.

Most of the artifacts sold came from the collection of three men who decided to liquidate their holdings. Some of the auctioned items were memorabilia from the 1997 film, “Titanic,” directed by James Cameron, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Burns says many of the Titanic items sold at the auction already were on display at the Florida museum. Other pieces sold at the auction to private collectors will be added to the exhibit, including the dinner menu. Burns says collectors often allow their collectibles to be publicly displayed.

Burns says the tragedy continues to fascinate the public almost a century later. Most people are familiar with the Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York. But Burns says people are captivated by stories about individuals who perished or survived the tragedy. More than 1,500 died.

“Lives were changed; survivors endured,” says Burns. “It’s human nature to want to know about it.”