WIGAN antiques dealer Colin de Rouffignac was a newly married man when he spotted an undistinguished looking medal in a South of England bric-a-brac shop - but this was no piece of tat.
The eagle-eyed expert had chanced upon one of a very limited number of medals to have been awarded to every member of the crew of the ship Carpathia, which rescued more than 300 passengers from the stricken Titanic.
He bought the medal for a handful of pounds. But now, 40 years later, he’s put it up for sale knowing that a similar one sold recently for £6,000.
The timing of the sale couldn’t be better, with Titanic fever gripping the nation at the moment.
In fact today, April 14, is the 100th anniversary of the collision between the mighty cruise liner on its maiden voyage and a north Atlantic iceberg. The ship went down in the early hours of the following morning, with the loss of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
However, more than 700 souls in the lifeboats were saved by the ship Carpathia, among them the American socialite who came to be known as “the unsinkable” Molly Brown.
It was this larger-than-life woman who had medals struck and given to Carpathia crew members. And these large, coin-like objects have become real collectors’ items for those fascinated by Titanic lore.
Yet, at his antiques premises opposite the Charnley Arms, in Standish, Colin said: “I’d forgotten I’d bought the medal until all this publicity about the anniversary.
“I didn’t pay all that much for the medal, and, to be perfectly honest, I was amazed when I read that they are now going through auctions for between £4,000 and £6,000.
“So if someone wants this piece of important memorabilia, then it’s here.”
He said that Molly Brown was one of the most flamboyant passengers on the Titantic, and was too loud for the tastes of some of the snobbish passengers.
Molly was rescued and had the idea to have the medal struck for the crew of the Carpathia, who had saved so many souls from the sinking Titanic. Most were in bronze, but two were silver and one gold.
Colin said: “Everything ‘Titanic’ is extremely valuable, and in all my years as a dealer, this is the only item I’ve seen.
“I bought the medal all those years ago because I had an idea that one day it would go up in value. I’ve had to wait a very long time.”
He said the medals had been presented without individual descriptions.