Auctioning Survivor Memorabilia


Apr 11, 2001
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It was with a heavy heart I learned of yesterday's auction in Southampton of Marshall Drew's Titanic hatribbon for 53,000 dollars. Tonight it was on the second page of the Rhode Island newspapers. This was the hat ribbon bought by Uncle James Drew in Titanic's barbershop and taken off the ship by Aunt Lu in her purse-it was discovered back in New York days later. Marshall treasured this hatribbon. We would take it to schools when we did Titanic talks for children and for civic groups. I organized an exhibit at his favorite haunt- the Westerly Library back in 1984. It was his wish that it go to a museum someday. He gave me the hatribbon in 1984- and I kept it for about 6 months before feeling that somehow his family ought to be the ones to have it. Marshall had kept it in an old red plastic zip pencil pouch for decades- in the Washington Trust safety deposit box, and reluctantly took it back from me when I explained I felt it should stay in his family. We thought that one day the artifacts would be in a museum and he wondered if the hatribbon might also be displayed- he really loved the Smithsonian and expressed interest in it going there. While I understand that auctioneers don't get emotional over items on the blocks, and I realize family can do what they want with things they own- I somehow feel very sad about how this has ended up- and wonder what the American who paid this obscene amount will do with this little black grosgrain ribbon with the gold stamped words RMS Titanic printed on it with the British and American flags imprinted. When I would have to transport it from place to place- I was afraid my purse would be snatched- so I pinned it in a small cloth bag over my heart for safe keeping. I recently heard The Frank Aks collection was sold by his grandchildren- he was so proud of it and it was for a time in a Norfolk museum. It's a strange world. I wonder how you in the Titanic community feel about this sort of thing? I just feel sad.
 

Craig Sopin

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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Shelley-

Rest assured that the "hat ribbon" (actually a ceremonial menu ribbon) will have a good home, albeit not the Smithsonian. My surprise is that the Straus letter, a unique and historically significant artifact featured on the ET On-Line Exhibit, commanded a fraction of what the ribbon did.

Regards,
Craig Sopin
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Small consolation, but it could have been worse- the family could have divided it into miniscule sections (as was done with Clyde Barrow's death pants a few year back) and sold them with notarized certificates of authenticity in a series of lucrative public appearances at shopping malls and conventions. At least it is in the hands of someone who obviously values it. I understand how you feel 'though- a couple of years back I watched the ultimate collection of swing memorabilia, most of it one of a kind pieces amassed by the same person over a 75 year period, fall into the hands of heirs who honestly didn't give a F*, and it is best not to think too much about it as I am sure it has been dispersed via eBay long ere this.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Thanks Jim- you do understand. What I have learned from all of this is when somebody gives you something- KEEP it-they have selected you for a reason-even if the family does kick up a fuss. I have already told my daughters not to expect to get my liner collection and Titanic treasures when I am gone- I have put it in writing - they will go to someone I know who will treasure them as much as I did- for all the right reasons, and will keep the collection intact. I have no problems with things going on permanent loan to a museum for all to see. I wonder just how many wonderful things have been squirreled away- thrown away, dispersed with no record, and just plain forgotten by uncaring descendents and total strangers? I expect we would be staggered if we knew a fraction of the loss to history. Thank God Walter Lord was wise enough to see Greenwich got his amazing Titanic inventory.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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I've done the same with my collection(s)-in the unlikely event of something happening I have explicit instructions for the music items to head in one direction, the liner stuff in another, and all remaining evidence of my brief foray into acting to be respectfully cremated.

When you think about it, it is only a hat band. One with an interesting history, admittedly, but still only a band. The thing of real value was your friendship with Mr. Drew, which was, and is, something which could not be bought. In my case, my musician friend knew that he did not have long and sent me most of his REALLY good stuff during his last few months- along with legally binding letters of intent- and thankfully I did not let my better nature surface and return the stuff. I guess the lesson here is A) as a collector, leave a will, and B) if given a one of the kind object KEEP IT.
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Memories are priceless of course- and I am grateful for the adventures we shared. Before he died Marshall wrote out for me all he could remember of his Titanic experience- it is in Destination Disaster, along with the photograph, and he also did a copy of Convergence of the Twain for me in his distinctive calligraphy. I feel I have satisfied the obligation to history by making it public in this way. I do treasure a photo of him at age 7 taken in Sept. before he sailed on Olympic for England, and a box of his famous origami he made once for my youngest daughter when she was sick, his paintbrushes and some of his books. There is not enough money in the state of Rhode Island to buy any of these things. I enjoy sharing the photos and memories I have here on ET- in so doing it keeps their memories alive- but nothing will ever be for sale. As to the ribbon- he did always refer to it as a hatband ribbon. I actually have one from the Liberte and one from the Flandres very similar. They fit around those little sailor hats boys liked to wear- and were churned out by the gross as souvenirs. Marshall said he knew of only one other band like his- I wish I could recall who had it. Funny, I don't get the least bit sentimental over a piece of coal or an old chipped plate or a fork- it's the personal effects- charged with sentimental value that get me all emotional. I think I would go berserk if any of those heartrending artifacts like the AMY necklace, or mess jacket went to the auction block. I find auctions of estates particularly depressing- a whole life laid out on a table for strangers to pick through and put a price on. I was just wild at my beloved great aunt's house auction- and bought all I could to keep things from going to strangers- but in the end had to leave the grounds, being unable to bear to watch it go on. Sad to think everything has a price- whatever someone is willing and foolish enough to pay.
 
Sep 2, 2009
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Jim wrote:

>>When you think about it, it is only a hat band. One with an interesting history, admittedly, but still only a band. The thing of real value was your friendship with Mr. Drew, which was, and is, something which could not be bought.<<

Jim, you beat me to posting thoughts along these lines.

The thing that I treasure most are the numerous close friendships I have developed with various other ocean liner collectors over the past twenty five years.

Over the last ten years these friendships have only grown closer.

As I can remember being asked by Steve Sweeney to join and assist in the development of little private mailing group on "Prodigy" run by Phil Haywood back in 1993.

I quickly joined this group along with eleven others and we when on to discuss privately in great detail the Titanic and other ocean liners and our various collections. Over time more people were invited onto this little group as they were other "friends" that the members knew.

In early 1994 this mailing group was taken off "Prodigy" an onto a mail server on the world wide web by Phil Haywood. When this group reached about 40 to 45 members it started to swap and overpower Phil's server and another member of the group "John Davis" stepped in and transferred the mailing list to a new server.

Along about this time it was also determined that the group should open itself up to anyone who wanted to join. This was done in early 1994, and after getting several of the same basic questions over and over again by the new members it was determined that a FAQ need to be written.

This original Titanic FAQ was written by Steve Sweeney, David Wong, John Davis, Phil Haywood and myself back around 1994-1995 is has gone through various updates and is still around as it can be found on this sight and various others.

As the friendships and list grew I had to opt in an out of the mailing list due to numerous moves and job changes and flame war attacks by various people. The original members back in 1994-1995 know who these people are/were.

The original list also moved from server to server as it grew. But when the list owner came under a serious flame attack by various members of the list it was determined at this point to shut the list down and transfer it over to a newly created newsgroup www you all should know this newsgroup -- alt.history.ocean-liners.titanic.

Thus the "John Davis" mailing list was then shutdown for a short period of time and then re-openned privately to none trouble casing members again. The list grew along with the numerous friendships, the server and ownership changed hands again this time "Mark Taylor" took over, there were numerous other mailing lists that also started at this time, Jeff Newman's, Brian Hawley's and mine, etc.

Back in 1993, the only Titanic group you could find on "Prodigy" was this private mailing list there were no "Titanic" websites. Do a search today you will find hundreds of thousands of hits for Titanic and various other ocean liners.

It is these original friendships that have developed over the years that I treasure most. However, some of the original twelve members have passed on, they are still remembered with great fondness.

For back in 1993 it was these people who you could tell when you picked up a really good "Titanic" find and they would know what you were talking about and its value.

I would have to say that it is of great importance that if your collection isn't going to an heir, that it be spelled out in great detail where it is going, and that if it is going to be given to a museum that they have to place it on public display or available for public viewing and not just in storage. As I know many items that have been donated to various societies or museums were the items are not on display or ended up elsewhere. (Major parts of my book collection coming from the sale of these collections).

That is why I am glad that Walter Lord's Collection went to Greenwich.

However, until that final day comes I feel that whatever I buy or whatever I am given should be kept in my collection. If I choose to sell it in my old age for myself that is my choice. However someone should also be aware of the value of your items because I have also seen great collections thrown in the trash. A prime example of this is Cunrad Lines itself back in the late 1960's and early 1970's a lot of its archive items just when in the dumpster. Thank goodness a friend was smart enough to pull a lot of this stuff out of the dumpster before its destruction.

However, several of my prize pieces very few people have ever seen as like many others, I made a lot of my private stuff avalible to others back in the mid-ninties only to find it on various websites without credit (Mostly after the Cameron Titanic caze when almost everyone had to start a website on the Titanic) of copies of original images being sold for a profit.

That is why most of what I share on this ET board is watermarked or noted that it come from my personnel collection.

I to agree that I one is given an object of great value by a friend keep it as, in most cases it was given out of friendship and with the understanding that you are aware of its value and will treasure this item.

As for a key example of one rare 'Titanic' item see my introduction link as the original members of the mailing list will remember this find

Link Below:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/read.php?file=/5676/34730.html&lm=1038286180#
 
Mar 15, 2001
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What an interesting post. Its a shame how some of these artifacts end up in the hands of people who don't care about the Titanic but see gold when the name Titanic pops up. I was going to post a question a few weeks ago about the question "What will become of your collection after you pass away"?. I haven't seriously thought about it but I do know I have quite a surprisingly nice collection.I guess since I do not have any children, it may go to nieces and nephews- maybe.
 

Phillip Gowan

Member
Apr 10, 2001
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The hatband was out of my league--but I did win the auction for the door nameplate from Thomas Andrews' office at Harland & Woolf. Now proudly appears on the door to my "Titanic Room." Will get Phil H. to upload a photo of it. Darren, come down to Florence for lunch sometime!

Phil
 
Mar 15, 2001
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Hi Phil, I would love to come to Florence for lunch sometime. The only problem is finding the time away from work. I am so behind in yard work also, I usually have a garden every spring but since the yard is so wet, I am thinking of growing rice. Hopefully, I can get down there soon. Thanks for the invite.
 

Phillip Gowan

Member
Apr 10, 2001
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Kalman Tanito snapped this photo after I won the auction for Thomas Andrews' door nameplate from Harland & Woolf. (Now a fixture on the door of my "Titanic Room.")
62266.jpg
 
May 12, 2005
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Great Phil!

Speaking of mug shots, just thought I'd tell you that yours and my mugs are on the front page of the Ennis paper today. My news editor did a story on my trip and different projects and our picture was the one chosen. If you hear from relatives here about it, be prepared for the big mistake made about "my speech!" The editor was working from old notes in the till from when I was planning to give a talk at BTS which was postponed, as you know. I was out of the office today so wasn't on hand to correct this blunder. There will be a retraction about that tomorrow. How embarrassing! But the rest of the story, which naturally mentions you, is nice (and we look pretty good in our gala supper finery).

I'll see that you get a copy of this issue if Glenda or others don't send you one.

Great going on the wins at auction. What was the other stuff you got?

Randy
 

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