A 12-foot wooden replica of luxury liner RMS Mauretania has just become the most expensive model boat in the world, selling for £162,000 at auction. The model was bought by London’s Pullman Gallery, a dealer in high-end artefacts and antiques, who beat off hot competition from the Liverpool Museum.
The 1:64 scale model was crafted by Swan Hunter, the company who also built the real ship, to celebrate the vessel’s launch in 1906. The model is of particular interest to collectors because of RMS Mauretania’s history as the sister ship of the ill-fated Lusitania, which was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 with fatalities of nearly 2,000. RMS Mauretania also held the world record for fastest Transatlantic voyage for 22 years until 1929 when it was beaten by German liner Bremen.
Swan Hunter loaned the model to London’s Science Museum in 1938, where it stayed until 2012 when the museum’s shipping gallery closed and the piece was moved into storage. An identical model complete with its original mahogany case, display base and builder’s plates –which the auctioned version is missing - is still on display at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. The model was originally estimated to sell for around £50,000 when the auction was announced in March but this figure more than tripled after a fierce bidding war ensued at last night’s auction.
“We are delighted with the outcome,” said auctioneer Charles Miller. “We gave the ship an estimate of £50,000 but really hoped it would achieve a six figure sum because it is such a spectacular object and it deserved that. The model is extremely decorative and detailed. It is one of the most glamorous models you will see.”