Measuring 18 inches wide and 11 inches tall, the sepia image captures RMS Titanic in its purpose-built berth at the White Star Line’s Southampton dock on April 9, 1912, just a day before it left Southampton on its ill-fated Atlantic crossing. Shortly before midnight on April 14, less than a week after the photo was taken, the “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg and sank, claiming the lives of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
In the photo, you can see crew members and workmen putting some final touches on the ship before it set sail, including painting touch-ups to its hull and window cleaning. Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge and Son, the UK auction house selling the item, believes it to be one of the most important photos of Titanic to come up for auction. “The clarity and details are astonishing,” he told Fox News, noting that it’s “certainly the most detailed I have ever seen.” The photo was purchased at a flea market in Paris in the 1970s and has been in private hands until now.
The photo, which has a pre-sale estimate of between $6,100 and $9,900, is part of a bigger lot set to be auctioned off on April 22. Also going under the hammer is a gold medal awarded to First Officer Horace J. Dean, a crewmember on RMS Carpathia, which rushed to Titanic’s rescue after receiving its distress signal and helped save more than 700 people during the disaster. It’s one of 14 “Titanic medals” that were handed out to Carpathia’s crew. Only a handful of these medals have ever been sold, and Aldridge estimates it may fetch as much as $37,000.
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This latest Titanic auction is just one of several notable sales in recent years.
Tickets, floor plans, life jackets and even a menu listing the final meal served on the doomed ship have all fetched top dollar. In 2016, a navigational sextant used by the captain of RMS Carpathia sold for nearly $100,000. One collector paid more than $32,000 for a photo of an iceberg that may—or may not—have been the one that collided with the ship that fateful night.
And in October 2013 a record-setting $1.7 million was spent at auction for the violin played by Titanic’s bandleader, Wallace Hartley. Hartley had been given the violin as a gift from his fiancé. After playing onboard the ship till the end, Hartley placed the violin in his luggage case and strapped it around his body. After his remains were recovered in the days following the tragedy, the violin and his personal possessions were returned to his fiancé, who kept them until her death. Her sister later donated them to the Salvation Army, and from there they passed through several owners before being positively identified as belonging to Hartley.