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Monday, 13 August 2018

Century-old pocket watch belonging to a Russian immigrant who died on board the Titanic as he was bound for a better life in America is expected to sell for more than $20,000 at auction

  • A century-old pocket watch owned by a man who died on board Titanic is on sale
  • Belonging to Russian immigrant in second class, it was passed down generations
  • Sinai Kantor, 34, was bound for America to start a new life with wife Miriam, 24
  • Miriam fought for the watch to be recovered and it is set to sell for $20,000
A century-old pocket watch belonging to a then 34-year-old Russian immigrant who was heading to America for a better life but died on board the Titanic, is set to sell for more than $20,000 at auction.
The silver and brass pocket watch belonged to Sinai Kantor, who had been travelling with his wife Miriam, 24, to start a new life when the 'unsinkable ship' tragically hit an iceberg on April 12, 1912.  
The couple had paid £26 for second class ticket 244367 and were destined for the Bronx, New York, where they planned to study dentistry and medicine.
A century-old pocket watch (pictured) belonging to a Russian immigrant who was heading to America for a better life but died on board the Titanic, is set to sell for more than $20,000
A century-old pocket watch (pictured) belonging to a Russian immigrant who was heading to America for a better life but died on board the Titanic, is set to sell for more than $20,000
The pocket watch belonged to Sinai Kantor, who had been travelling with his wife Miriam, 24, on board the Titanic (pictured) to start a new life when the ship hit an iceberg on April 12, 1912
The pocket watch belonged to Sinai Kantor, who had been travelling with his wife Miriam, 24, on board the Titanic (pictured) to start a new life when the ship hit an iceberg on April 12, 1912
Sinai, who was a furrier by trade, intended to sell trunks of furs to fund their education dreams.  
While Miriam survived after being rushed into an overflowing 'women and children's first' lifeboat, she fought for her husband's body and belongings to be retrieved from the icy waters.
An eight-day recovery operation rescued Kantor's pocket watch along with his Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a silver watch, a telescope and a corkscrew.
Handed down from generation to generation, 106 years on the Swiss-made open-face piece is now up for sale in the American & Political Auction with Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, concluding at the end of the month.
Although the original movement of the watch has rusted from immersion in sea water and the hands are nearly all deteriorated, the numerals engraved in Hebrew are still visible - as is the embossing of Moses holding the Ten Commandments on the back.
Although the original movement of the watch has rusted from immersion in sea water and the hands are nearly all deteriorated, the numerals engraved in Hebrew (pictured) are still visible
Although the original movement of the watch has rusted from immersion in sea water and the hands are nearly all deteriorated, the numerals engraved in Hebrew (pictured) are still visible
The Titanic (pictured)  sailed to New York after leaving Southampton where the couple planned to study dentistry and medicine
The Titanic (pictured) sailed to New York after leaving Southampton where the couple planned to study dentistry and medicine
'It's not an expensive watch, it's a silver plated brass watch,' Don Ackerman, Heritage Auctions Historical Consignment Director, said.
'The guy probably didn't have a whole lot of money, so it was something he could afford that cherished his Jewish identity and appealed to him.
'The background story to something like this adds to the value.
'It would be a little nicer if the hands hadn't rusted off and you could see what time they stopped working.
'But sometimes the imperfections add to the value, if it was in perfect condition people would question it.
Mr Ackerman said the sinking of the RMS Titanic was one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century and the fascination with it's sinking has not abated.
'The guy probably didn't have a whole lot of money, so it was something he could afford that cherished his Jewish identity and appealed to him,' Mr Ackerman said. Pictured: The embossing of Moses holding the Ten Commandments is still visible on the back of the watch
'The guy probably didn't have a whole lot of money, so it was something he could afford that cherished his Jewish identity and appealed to him,' Mr Ackerman said. Pictured: The embossing of Moses holding the Ten Commandments is still visible on the back of the watch
'It's a piece that was aboard the ship and a documented history from the family makes this a bittersweet and really rare opportunity for collectors,' he said.
'We have handled some Titanic material before, but this is a very personal type of item and it tells a story.
'Just looking at it, you know it's not just something that been sitting in someone's attic or drawer for a while, it's a very graphic object. 
'The Titanic went down at 1.20 in the morning, so I don't know if the watch worked for a while after, but you could speculate it stopped then.'
Also up for auction is a guillotine - the only one to have been offered in America that has a near 40-pound blade and is estimated to fetch $24,000.
An eight-day recovery operation rescued Kantor's pocket watch (pictured) along with his Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a silver watch, a telescope and a corkscrew
An eight-day recovery operation rescued Kantor's pocket watch (pictured) along with his Russian passport, a notebook, money, wallets, a silver watch, a telescope and a corkscrew
The heavy stained-hardwood and metal execution device was believed to have been used in either France or one of the French colonies during the first quarter of the 20th Century.
An electric chair from Pennsylvania Penitentiary in 1940 is also up for grabs.
The original consignor obtained it from a retired prison guard, after the penitentiary decided to replace it - currently the piece has an opening bid for $10,000. 
'These are not items you normally see at auction. It's very unusual,' Mr Ackerman said.
'Some things like this belong in a museum, but there are also some collectors who have peculiar subject matter they deal in but may not advertise to their friends.
'They may keep it in the back room, so maybe somebody out there who likes things related to the penal system or has a 'torture chamber..''
A display showing the first successful nuclear fission experiment at the University of Chicago - an innovation which would go on to develop the atomic bomb -  holds an opening bid of $7,500.
The test took place on the squash court on the lower level of a school with scientists and a Geiger counter.
It was there that they recognised the free additional neutrons from the experiment had been caused by the reaction.  
'This was a little, tiny baby step, but it was a breakthrough that led to the atomic bomb and everything associated with it,' Mr Ackerman said.
'It's historically important no matter of your nationality. It's interesting, graphic and you won't see another of these. It's something that's noteworthy'.
These feature alongside a highly significant 1844 Flag for James K. Polk and George Dallas, one of the largest political flags ever made, bearing a $200,000 estimate and a rare official White House Presidential flag used for parts of Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration and John F. Kennedy, which carries a $20,000 estimate.

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