When the Titanic sank over 100 years ago, it took 1,503 lives with it and left countless artifacts at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. 5,500 of those artifacts were obtained and will go up for auction in October. The auction is being held to satisfy the debts of Premier Exhibitions, the company that found them and displayed them around the world.
The current “floor bid” of $19.5 million was made by hedge funds Alta Fundamental Advisors, Apollo Global Management, and PacBridge Capital Partners. A new buyer would have to submit a bid of at least $21.5 million to be considered.
The artifacts include a cherub that was part of the ship’s grand staircase and a sapphire ring surrounded by 14 diamonds. A court filing explains that the Titanic artifacts are especially desirable because they were taken from the depths of the Atlantic rather than picked from the surface of the water.
Premier Exhibitions conducted eight dives from 1987 to 2010 and has been the only company legally permitted to collect Titanic artifacts since 1994. It filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
There are concerns that a private buyer could scoop up the lot and remove them from the public domain forever. As James Cameron, director of the movie about the fated vessel, explained: “Securing the irreplaceable collection of artifacts, protecting and preserving them for future generations, by placing them in the public trust, is a unique and important opportunity to honor the 1,503 passengers and crew who died.”