An Auction of Titanic Proportions: Christie’s Ocean Liner Auction

Christie’s Ocean Liner Auction Encourages Memory of the 1912 Maritime Legend

By Sara Neff


 It is obvious that the story of the R.M.S. Titanic has had a profound impact on not only the maritime industry, but the entire world.  

Ninety-five years after the R.M.S. Titanic sailed its ill-fated maiden voyage, eighteen lots of memorabilia from the ship were auctioned at Christie’s New York’s annual Ocean Liner sale on June 28. The tragic tale of the ship’s sinking still troubles the minds of people all over the world, yet the grandeur of the Titanic remains at the forefront of everyone’s imagination.

Owning a piece of memorabilia from the R.M.S. Titanic gives the owner a place in American and world history. No matter how small the artifact, each and every little thing pertaining to the Titanic holds a place in many people’s hearts, and this was evident at the Ocean Liner auction. In total, $718,680 in maritime and ocean liner memorabilia was sold, with $193,140 coming from the R.M.S. Titanic artifacts. “Once again, the allure of the R.M.S. Titanic played a central role at the annual Ocean Liner sale,” said Gregg Dietrich, Christie’s maritime and ocean liner specialist.

After the once-deemed “unsinkable ship” hit an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic in April 1912, several rescue attempts were made to recover as many survivors as possible. One of the lots offered at the Christie’s auction was a deck log from the S.S. MacKay-Bennet, the second recovery ship at the scene. The log recounts the story of the ship’s recovery attempt. Selling for $102,000, the deck log more than doubled its estimate of $30,000-50,000.

Also more than doubling its estimate was a list of first class passengers for the R.M.S. Titanic, which included a number of notorious New York families on board when the ship sank. Businessman and real estate entrepreneur Colonel John Jacob Astor and his wife, Madeline; Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim, American businessman and son of mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim; and co-owner of the Macy’s department store Mr. Isidor Strauss and his wife, Ida, were among just some of the prominent families that endured the toil of the ship’s end. After being estimated at $15,000-20,000, the passenger list surpassed expectations and sold for $48,000.

Many lots recalling the emotional pains of the disaster were auctioned as well. A two-lot collection of twelve Marconi grams from survivors aboard the R.M.S. Carpathia include such messages as: “Safe on Carpathia. Jacques not here.; and Father not seen no hope arrive Carpathia Wednesday New York Richard.” New Jersey native Laurie Marie Cribb describes her struggle for survival when she was rescued by the R.M.S. Carpathia but her father lost his life. The eight-page hand-written narrative was estimated to sell for $10,000-$15,000.

It is obvious that the story of the R.M.S. Titanic has had a profound impact on not only the maritime industry, but the entire world. Today the memory of the R.M.S. Titanic still lingers as the success of Christie’s New York’s annual Ocean Liner auction relied greatly on artifacts relating to the extravagant ship. While the tragic loss of many lives will always be a reminder of impermanence, the glamour and allure of the R.M.S. Titanic will live on and continue to be one of the greatest legends in maritime history.