AS A pawnbroker Mark Manning is used to seeing people carry unusual objects through his door.
But even he was shocked when a man walked into Regal Pawn armed with a plastic bag full of pieces of the Titanic worth more than £1 million.
The man, a civil servant from Wirral who has asked to remain anonymous, claimed the items, which included a fragment of the ship’s metal hull, were given to him by George Tulloch – one of the men who brought up artefacts from the ship in the 1990s.
In his collection there was a piece of the metal hull, a section of the wooden stairwell from first class, a block of wood on which the engine sat when it was being made, a piece of coal, iron from a gantry used in making the hull and a small section of green patterned carpet from first class.
Regal Pawn is based in Deeside and Mr Manning, 50, who lives near Chester, said the man had been trying to get him to look at his stuff for years but he declined because he thought the man was a lunatic.
Mr Manning said: “The bloke was pestering me for two years – by phone, on the internet – to take a look at this stuff. I just thought he was some insane man, a stark raving lunatic but when he turned up one day I looked at him and thought ‘he is real, this is real’.
“He was very knowledgeable and showed me all the paperwork and all the pieces and told me the whole story and the rest is history really.
“I did my research, found the stuff was real and paid for it. When I come to sell it we have a gentleman’s agreement and he will get some, some will go to charity and the business will get some.”
Mr Manning paid the man £15,000 up front for the artefacts from the doomed ship and has so far received one offer for them – a cool £1.2 million for the piece of hull brought up from the seabed.
Mr Manning added: “When I read all the paperwork and confirmed its authenticity it was a massive thrill. To think that I own that bit of history, probably the biggest piece of hull in private sale in the world, is a great big deal. That’s why we keep it under lock and key and out the way.”
The man started his collection after he inherited a piece of the stairwell from his great grandfather who was given the piece by a deckhand he befriended who was on board the Cable Ship Minia which was sent to recover bodies and debris from the Titanic after it had sunk.
His collection expanded when he initially wrote to Mr Tulloch to express his disgust after it was revealed they were planning an expedition to salvage some pieces of the ship. He initially believed the ship should be left undisturbed as a memorial to the 1,500 people who died when the ship struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage in April, 1912. To the his surprise Mr Tulloch wrote back saying it was the company’s aim to preserve the memory of the wreck for future generations, and included a piece of coal from the ship in the letter.
The two men then continued to write to each other for seven years until Mr Tulloch’s death, aged 59, in 2004. During their correspondence Mr Tulloch also sent the man a two inch piece of the hull as a gift – which is believed to be one of the largest pieces owned in a private collection.