The Titanic up for auction

@CNNMoney March 15, 2012: 12:46 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The most famous shipwreck of all time is on the auction block, including passengers' personal belongings and even salvage rights to the wreck site at the bottom of the North Atlantic Sea.

The collection includes video footage of the ship and recovery effort, as well as more than 5,500 artifacts recovered from the wreck. The artifacts consist of fine china, silverware, clothing, diamond jewelry and other personal items, decorative items from the boat, and even pieces of the ship itself.

The auction, near the shipwreck's centennial, marks the first time artifacts collected from the Titanic during salvage expeditions will be available for sale, although items gathered from the ocean surface or from survivors have been sold in the past -- for a pricey sum.

In 2004, Guernsey's auctioned off memorabilia from the Titanic and a few artifacts that had been passed down through the families of survivors from the ship. An original menu sold for about $100,000, according to Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's auction house in New York.

All the artifacts and intellectual property in this auction will be sold as a single lot by Guernsey's.

In a previous appraisal, the collection was valued at $189 million altogether. There will be a reserve, although it has not been disclosed, Ettinger said.

Gallery: See 8 Titanic artifacts for sale

RMS Titanic Inc., a division of Premier Exhibitions (PRXI), has owned the official salvage rights to the Titanic and its wreck site for the last 18 years. Premier decided to auction the collection now because "the time was just right," according to Brian Wainger, spokesman for the company.

The buyer may also get to assume sovereign possession of the ship, depending on their ability to do so, Wainger said.

Pre-qualified bidders must submit their bids to Guernsey's before April 2. Bids will then be reviewed and the announcement of the winning bid will be made by mid-April.

The sale is subject to certain conditions to ensure the collection will be properly maintained and available for public display going forward, in accordance with the dictates of a United States District Court, which has jurisdiction over the Titanic and the fate of artifacts from the ship.

Potential buyers include museums, municipalities, research institutions, or even private individuals, Ettinger said. So far, Guernsey's has received about 20 serious inquiries, he added.

"We just hope that it remains properly conserved and cared for and that the collection remains intact," said Dominique Rissolo, executive director of the Waitt Institute, which was involved in mapping the wreck site on the most recent expedition. "We would prefer that it never enter private hands -- it's not about ownership but telling a story."

Take a submarine dive to the Titanic for $60,000

The famous wreckage was first discovered in 1985 off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since then there have been eight research and recovery expeditions, during which time the artifacts included in the sale were found. Interest in the shipwreck peaked again after the release of the Titanic movie in 1997. The film grossed $1.8 billion worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film in history, according to Box Office Mojo, a site that tracks ticket sales. That's almost 10 times the appraised value of the collection.

Premier has been displaying some of the artifacts in traveling shows worldwide, including a permanent exhibit of about 350 artifacts at the Luxor in Las Vegas. Over the years the exhibitions have made millions of dollars but the company has spent far more on the expeditions, recovery, conservation and ongoing exhibitions, Wainger said.

Premier said it will direct a portion of the proceeds to the Titanic Preservation Trust, an endowment fund created by the company for future conservation and maintenance of Titanic artifacts. To top of page

Help! We need a makeover
Young dad, $15,000 in credit card debt
Readers' Choice

Carlos Rodriguez is trying to rid himself of $15,000 in credit card debt, while paying his mortgage and saving for his son's college education.

$400,000 portfolio, too many holdings
Readers' Choice

Susan Carson and Laura DeLallo make $225,000 and have half a million in retirement savings, but their sprawling portfolios is proving hard to manage.

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
Rate data provided
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
  • -->

    Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.