The guide price for the violin at the Henry Aldridge & Son auction house in Devizes, England was set at £300,000 ($484,800) and opened with an initial bidding price of £50 but ultimately sold for a staggering £900,000 ($1,454,400). That price sets a world record for a single item of Titanic memorabilia. The buyer was anonymous but is said to be a British collector of Titanic items.
First discovered in an attic in 2006, it took seven years for the violin to be authenticated and was made official back in March. The violin is believed to have been played by band leader Wallace Hartley, who sealed himself along with his fellow musicians into Titanic lore forever when they allegedly played the hymn "Nearer, My God, To Thee" to frantic passengers as the ship sank on its maiden voyage.
“In my 20 years as an auctioneer, I can honestly say I don’t think any article has made people show as much emotion as this one,” Andrew Aldridge of Aldridge & Son said. “People pick it up and start crying.”
Even if your only frame of reference for the tragedy is the 1997 James Cameron movie, the violin probably means something to you. The band was portrayed in one of the film's biggest tear-jerking scenes (remember the elderly couple in their bed?), keeping calm amidst chaos.
The violin was a gift from Hartley's fiancee, Maria Robinson, and is inscribed with the message "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement-from Maria." A diary entry written by Robinson indicates that the violin was returned to her after it was found strapped to Hartley's body and eventually given to the Salvation Army before winding up in a buyer's attic.
Other items from the 1912 sinking were sold at the auction for between £10 and a few hundred pounds, including newspapers, photos, and crockery.