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Titanic Violin Sells at Auction for $1.7 Million

Violin was owned by ill-fated ocean liner's bandleader


Through countless words in books and portrayals in many films, the poignancy of the RMS Titanic’s ill-fated band playing as the ship sunk on the night of April 15, 1912 has seeped into the fabric of our culture. Now, the violin believed to be the one played by the Titanic’s bandmaster Wallace Hartley on that famous night has sold for $1.7 million by the British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son.

Now unplayable from the damage and “repairs” it received after reportedly spending several days in a leather bag strapped to band leader Hartley’s body in the near-freezing North Atlantic, the instrument sold for the highest price for a piece of memorabilia from the disaster. It sold to someone identified only as a “British collector of Titanic items,” and will likely serve as the centerpiece of a collection.

As the subject of much speculation and public interest, the violin—and its provenance—were subjected to seven years of research and vetting by the auction house before the October 19 sale.

The violin itself appears to be a workshop instrument, perhaps from the Caussin or Schönbach shops, according to a dealer Martin Swan, and certainly of the type that any reasonable musician would take on a cruise-ship gig. As such, its value has everything to do with the association of Hartley and the Titanic and the market felt that $1.7 million was its real value.

The violin was also on display in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri, where a reported total of 317,000 people paid admission to see the storied instrument in ten weeks.

Read more about the Titanic's band.

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