Auction News

Titantic rescue panel prop is buoyant at auction


Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio in the water in the film Titanic.
Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

A piece of wood that saved the life of Rose DeWitt Bukater (as played by Kate Winslet) in Titanic is proving popular with bidders in a Hollywood props auction.

At this writing, the “Hero Floating Wood Panel” is currently under offer for $50,000 ($40,000 + buyer’s premium).

The piece is a floatation prop made of balsa wood. Its ornate design takes in floral accents and scrolling curves.

Most importantly in the fictional world of James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) it is the panel on which Rose shares her last moments with Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). The panel is only large enough to support one of them, Rose stays afloat while Jack sinks to his death.

The panel was modeled on a real piece from the most famous shipwreck in history.

The floating film prop is made from balsa. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions.

That panel, made of oak, is now in the Maritime Museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Canada was the nearest land to the stricken liner and many artefacts from the 1912 disaster are there.

Some researchers have speculated that the Louis XIV-style panel floated free from the area of the split in the ship. It was a door frame from the first-class lounge.

The fate of the Titanic has fascinated and appalled millions of people since the “unsinkable” ship went down after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

The disaster has been the subject of several films, of which 1997’s epic Titanic is the most successful.

It has itself become the subject of an extremely dedicated fan culture. Belief among that fanbase that the floating panel would have supported DiCaprio too was strong enough for director James Cameron to conduct an experiment to prove it wouldn’t.

While props from the Titanic film are popular with collectors, original pieces from the actual ship can sell for major sums.

At the end of 2023 a menu from the ship realised £83,000. A blanket made £96,000 and a passenger’s pocket watch £97,000 at the same sale.

In 2011, Captain Edward John Smith’s cigar box made £25,000 at auction in Liverpool.

A photograph taken a few days after the sinking that showed an ice berg apparently marked with red paint realised $100,000.

It is thought there may be more and more valuable items at the bottom of the Atlantic, including jewellery worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Film props can sell well if they’re from the right movie. And this item fits that bill superbly well. It is 8′ long and 41″ wide with hardwood reinforcement and a plaque saying “Leonardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet / ‘Titanic’ / Twentieth Century Fox / Paramount Pictures, 1997 / Floating panel that he uses to save her life in the sinking sequence of the film, in their roles as ‘Jack Dawson’ and ‘Rose DeWitt Bukater”. Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.”

It is for sale now at Heritage Auctions alongside other props from the movie, like Jack’s costume ($20,000) and a doll’s head ($1,000) from the fictional ship’s wreckage.

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