LONDON — The violin believed to have belonged to the bandleader on the Titanic fetched nearly $1.45 million at auction Saturday, becoming far and away the most expensive piece of memorabilia associated with the ocean liner ever to be sold.
The British auction house Henry Aldridge & Son had expected the battered-looking instrument to sell for a third of that amount. But the legend surrounding the fiddle, its embodiment of the heroic self-sacrifice of a band that famously kept playing as the ill-fated ship met its watery doom, boosted bidding to stratospheric levels.
The winning offer of 900,000 pounds, or $1.44 million, is more than four times the record amount paid two years ago for a 32-foot-long schematic drawing of the Titanic used in the investigation of its sinking.
The contest for the violin came down to two bidders vying furiously by telephone After the buyer’s premium is factored in, the final cost will come to $1.76 million.
Wallace Hartley was the band’s young leader. His violin was a gift from his fiancee, Maria Robinson, and bore the inscription “For Wallace, on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria.”
When Hartley’s body was pulled from the Atlantic days after the Titanic sank in April 1912, with the loss of more than 1,500 lives, the leather valise he used to carry the violin was still strapped to him. The other band members also perished.