AMONG all the specialist collecting areas, few can be as specialised or as fervent as the market in items relating to the Titanic. Devizes auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son (15/10% buyer’s premium) have capitalised on the way enthusiasts will pay big money for anything relating to the doomed liner by holding two specialist sales a year, in April and in September.
This year the April 11 sale was held at the The Hilton Hotel in Chilworth, Southampton – Southampton of course being the port where Titanic began her fateful maiden voyage.
Specialist markets tend to remain unaffected by downturn in the rest of the art and antiques trade but prior to this sale auctioneer Andrew Aldridge had serious reservations. “Around 70 per cent of our clients are based overseas and we were
worried the Iraq conflict would put them off,” he said.
Most overseas buyers did decide not to travel to the sale but the serious buyers chose to bid on the telephone.
One such buyer, calling from the US, took the top lot of the 299-lot sale – an R.M.S. Titanic onboard souvenir of a sailor’s hatband ribbon.
The black woven silk ribbon with the machine embroidered flags of the USA and Great Britain in colours and R.M.S. Titanic in gold, had been bought on board the luxury liner by James and Lulu Drew for their adopted son Marshall. Marshall and Lulu survived but James died in the disaster. The family had travelled to England on the Olympic to visit relatives in Cornwall.
Andrew Aldridge believes their return on the Titanic may have been due to coal strikes which meant passengers were moved off certain ships, including the Olympic, to make room for the transportation of coal.
Following Marshall’s death around five years ago, the ribbon passed by direct descent and it came to these rooms from his family along with a signed copy of The Sinking of the Titanic and other Sea Disasters and several photographs and postcards.
Estimated at £20,000-25,000, the ribbon attracted interest across the world, selling to the American collector at £34,000.
Other notable successes included a piece of the oak handrail from the liner’s grand staircase which took £19,800 and a postcard booklet bought onboard by first class passenger Stanley May and showing views of the ship, which brought an over-estimate £12,000.
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