What is it about the RMS Titanic that continues to capture the imagination? The grand ship's 1912 sinking by an iceberg is the most famous shipwreck of the 20th century, and quite possibly of all time. Legions of fans and historians are still drawn to the Titanic and its tale of technological hubris, economic disparity, and unspeakable tragedy.
The tragic deaths of over 1,500 men, women and children will always be the most meaningful loss from the disaster; no wonder Titanic ghost stories persist. But more than people went down with the ship. Not even the wealthiest passengers escaped the doomed vessel with all their cargo in hand. Extremely valuable items that went down with Titanic include fine paintings and handwritten manuscripts, lavish jewels and luxury cars. There were even some illegal drugs on board.
These priceless artifacts are no doubt lost forever. But who knows what you might find submerged in the North Atlantic?
While Titanic sank, violinist Wallace Hartley and his fellow musicians continued playing. Their final song was reported to be "Nearer My God To Thee," performed until they could no longer remain above water. A surviving passenger claimed Hartley's last words to his bandmates were, "Gentlemen, I bid you farewell."
When Hartley finally went into the water, he reportedly tried used his leather bag as a floatation device and put the violin, a gift from his fiancée Maria Robinson, inside it. The bow was too long to fit inside. Hartley's body was found 10 days later, along with his water-damaged violin. Robinson requested it back, though the instrument was presumed lost.
In 2006, the violin was discovered in Robinson's attic by an amateur musician. The old instrument still had an engraved plaque on it that read, "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement. From Maria." After seven years of study, it was verified authentic, and went up for auction in 2013. The violin fetched a whopping $1.7 million, and is considered to be one of the most important artifacts ever recovered from the Titanic.
The Rubáiyát is a book of poems by Medieval Persian philosopher and mathematician Omar Khayyam (1048-1131 CE). English writer and poet Edward Fitzgerald translated the poems to English for the first time in 1860, and they were published to great acclaim.
In 1911, the publishing house Sangorski & Sutcliffe made a particularly lavish copy of The Rubáiyát. It featured a Moroccan leather cover, decorated with embroidered peacocks and more than a thousand gems set in gold. The impressive volume went on exhibition in England before being auctioned off to an American buyer for a little over $2,000. It was loaded onto the Titanic to be shipped to its new owner.
In the unlikely event The Rubáiyát is recovered from the ocean, it would be worth an estimated $120,000.
The Renault CB coupe owned by first-class passenger William Carter was the only automobile thought to be brought onto the ship. Both Carter and his family survived the sinking, and he later made a $5,000 insurance claim for his brand-new automobile.
Historians say the Renault was held in a cargo hold on the front of the ship, which remains mostly intact on the ocean floor. While the value of the actual recovered vehicle is unknown, in 2003 a similar Renault was sold at auction for $269, 500. The real version, if ever recovered, would surely fetch millions.
John Jacob Astor IV, one of the world's richest men, also went down with the Titanic. The American Astor family made their fortune in fur trading, and later, opium. In 1909, though, the US Congress outlawed "smoking opium."
Somehow, four cases of opium presumably belonging to Astor still made it onto the Titanic – only to wind up on the bottom of the Atlantic.