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Titanic auction expected to sell off 5,500 items from ship

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The owner of the largest trove of artifacts salvaged from the Titanic is putting the vast collection up for auction as a single lot in 2012, the 100th anniversary of the world's most famous shipwreck.

Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 off the eastern Canadian coast. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

More than 5,500 items including fine china, ship fittings and portions of hull that were recovered from the ocean liner have an estimated value of $189 million, according to Premier Exhibitions Inc., parent of RMS Titanic Inc. — the Titanic's court-approved salvor. That value was based on a 2007 appraisal and does not include intellectual property gathered from a 2010 scientific expedition that mapped the wreck site.

The auction is scheduled for April 1 by Guernsey's, a New York City auction house, according to filings by Premier Exhibitions Inc. with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Results of the auction won't be announced until April 15, the date a century ago the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg.

The auction is subject to approval by a federal judge in Virginia whose jurisdiction for years has given oversight to legal issues governing the salvage of the Titanic. The Titanic treasures were amassed during seven perilous trips to the wreck, which rests about 2 1/2 miles below the ocean surface in the North Atlantic.

A spokeswoman for the auction house and Premier Exhibitions declined Wednesday to discuss the auction with The Associated Press until a formal announcement in January.

The Titanic's sinking claimed the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,228 passengers and crew. An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who has overseen the case from her Norfolk courtroom, has ruled that RMS Titanic has title to the artifacts and was entitled to full compensation for them. She has not determined how RMS Titanic will be compensated.

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