WHEN THE GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN: TITANIC MEDAL RECALLS MOMENTOUS NIGHT IN HISTORY
Titanic-Carpathia medal, 1912, presented to Fifth Officer Gustav J. Rath. Sold for $55,000. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's
Almost as famous as Noah’s Ark. The Titanic was the largest and supposedly the safest moving object ever made by man. A four-block-long floating palace designed to carry the moneyed class.
On her maiden voyage, first-class passengers included Americans like the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Brown probably paid $4,350 to stay in one of the choice suites.
The sky was clear, cold and moonless on Sunday evening April 14, 1912. By 11:40 p.m., most of the passengers had gone to bed.
It happened in about 10 seconds.
A few people stirring on the upper decks noticed a slight jar. “The ship seemed to shake herself, like a wet dog,” said one passenger. The vessel had grazed an iceberg.
At first, there was little concern. After all, the Titanic was unsinkable.
The passengers never really grasped that in 2½ hours the ship’s lights would flicker for the last time and sink beneath the water.
At 12:25 a.m., the Carpathia, a nearby steamer, received the message, “Come at once. We have struck a berg.” The ship began its 55-mile rescue journey to the Titanic.
As the sun rose, all that remained of the Titanic was a multitude of lifeboats among a mountain of icebergs. Two-thirds of the passengers had died. The records went down with the ship, but 2,228 people were estimated to be on board. Even if all the lifeboats had been full, they were still 1,000-people short.
The Carpathia rescued the survivors and sailed toward New York City and maritime history.
Barely 24 hours after having been rescued, first-and-second class passengers formed a committee for a general fund to aid the destitute steerage passengers, and to present a loving cup to the Carpathia’s captain and medals to her officers and crew.
In a ceremony which began at 10 a.m., on May 29, Molly Brown presented the loving cup to Captain Rostron, and the crew lined up to receive their medals, a token of gratitude from the people whose lives they saved. Six gold medals are known to exist.
The only gold Titanic-Carpathia medal believed to come up for auction sold at Sotheby’s, New York on July 29, 1997, for $55,000. It was presented to Fifth Officer Gustav J. Rath, consigned for auction by his family members.
Included with the lot was a letter of recommendation signed by Captain Rostron and Rath’s discharge papers from the Carpathia. He served twice on the steamer and both sets of papers are included.
Also, there is a photograph of the ship’s officers taken on the day of the presentation. Other printed and manuscript material relating to Gustav Rath’s career are included.
It’s the 75th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking this year, and the folklore behind anything connected to the Titanic is “particularly strong,” said Tara MacNeil of the coin department at Sotheby’s.
“We had phone calls from families of survivors regarding this piece. It’s amazing, the medal managed to survive in pristine condition.”
Q. I am in possession of a Beatles Second Album and a Hard days Night. One with cover, one without. I have been told these are worth $10,000. Is that true? Bethanne White, Pittsburgh.
A. When I ran these prices by record collectors and dealers, they laughed. In perfect shape, with the covers, I’m told you might fetch $100-$200 for them. But, you almost never find these records in perfect shape.
So much with records depends on condition. The records would need to be in the sleeve, with the original sheen, without any scratches or scuffs, and no water damage or tears to the covers. We’re talking perfect here.
Also, as is stands, there’s just no shortage of Beatles records. Like book collectors who look for first editions, record collectors hunt for original issue records.
For more information about collecting in this area contact: Record Collectors Monthly, PO Box 75, Mendham, N.J. 07945. They supply information about records, record companies and artists.
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