Photo: Topical Press Agency via Getty Images Photo: Topical Press Agency via Getty Images

More than 100 years after its terrible sinking, the myth of the Titanic lives on and continues to fascinate. It’s also been seven decades since the first underwater excavation, allowing researchers to trace, after 32 dives to 3.92 km below the surface, several thousand artifacts.

Edward Smith, Captain of Titanic. Photo: Exponaut Edward Smith, Captain of Titanic. Photo: Exponaut

The very first exhibition of the relics is going to be held in France (the excavations were made in collaboration with IFREMER), before the collection passes into the hands of Premier Exhibitions, the American company which owns the rights of the ship and is organising the dispersion of objects due to bankruptcy.

Premier Exhibitions hopes to cover its debts from the profits from the sale, and is subsequently bringing to the market one of the biggest collections of Titanic memorabilia ever seen. For example, you’ll find a bronze cherub from the grand staircase, a Chinese dining set, and a piece of the hull of the wreck.

The wreck of Titanic. Photo: Ralph White The wreck of Titanic. Photo: Ralph White

Several potential buyers have already expressed interest in the fascinating collection. The battle could be played out between American firms, Chinese investors, museums in the United Kingdom, or even James Cameron, the legendary director of the film Titanic (1997).

An opening bid of US$19.5 million (£14.8 mil) has been placed, and for bidding to continue, the next competitor will have to add a minimum of $2 million (£1.5 mil). The objects that make up the auction are to be sold as a whole rather than separately, an initiative that will prevent the collection from being dismantled and allow the future buyer to set up any future exhibitions.

Several objects forming part of the sale. Photo: David Paul Morris via Getty Images Several objects forming part of the sale. Photo: David Paul Morris via Getty Images

"It's sad to see that this great ship of dreams, and the parts that make it up, are lugged on one side and the other like an orphan," said David Gallo, an oceanographer who co-directed search of the wreck in 2010.

More than simply recovering artefacts, the auction also includes the ship's search rights, allowing the buyer to undertake additional underwater expeditions to find more treasures on the site.

Poster from the 1997 James Cameron film 'Titanic' Poster from the 1997 James Cameron film 'Titanic'

Several museums located in England are fighting to obtain the rights to the pieces to exhibit them in London. However, this is especially the case in Belfast, the city that gave birth to the liner. Their efforts were not only supported by James Cameron, the director who, in 1997, began to tell the story in an epic three-hour film, but also by Robert Ballard, the oceanographer at the head of the first excavations (alongside Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER).

Photo: Exponaut Photo: Exponaut

If the sale of the collection is confirmed, it will not be the first time that the Titanic upsets the auction market. Several relics that belonged to survivors have already been hammered for significant prices: the violin played by the leader of the small group during the sinking flew for US$1.7 million (£1.3 mil), a letter written in the last hours of the drama left for $166,000 (£126,000), while a key of the nest of minnow found a taker for $145,000 (£110,000).

Find all the objects related to the Titanic currently up for auction on Barnebys

Comment