Ocean Liner Memorabilia Can Be Worth a Boatload

The luxe look of ocean liners

Collecting ocean liner and steamship memorabilia has been popular ever since the maiden voyages of the magnificent intercontinental passenger ships. Your ice bucket is a great example of this type of collectible from the heyday of the ocean liners. With its Art Deco style and practical function, and given that the ice bucket is one of the more-coveted forms in utilitarian wares, your ice bucket certainly has many stories to tell about the era of luxury passenger ocean liner travel.

Your ice bucket was made by the International Silver Company in Connecticut and is marked “silver soldered,” a process of silver-plating using nickel silver, resulting in a product that is more durable for commercial use. These wares were manufactured with the aim of selling to hotels, clubs, restaurants, railroads and steamships; the buyers’ logos and company names would then be engraved onto each piece of silver for use at the individual businesses.

The engraved words “United States Lines” on your ice bucket tell us that the bucket is from the steamship SS United States, a luxury passenger line established in 1952. On its maiden voyage, the SS United States left New York City and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes, beating the record held by the Queen Mary by 10 hours. The ship became an iconic passenger line and demonstrated the skills of the ship building industry in the US. The luxury liner transported celebrities such as John Wayne, Duke Ellington, Harry Truman, Bob Hope and Princess Grace of Monaco, to name a few. It even safely transported the famous Mona Lisa painting back to the Louvre in Paris after a museum tour.

With the gaining popularity and speed of jet airplanes, the demand for steamship travel waned. In 1969, the SS United States was docked and hermetically sealed. It was sold to various owners in succession. Each had exciting ideas for the ship’s future, yet these ideas never came to fruition. In 1984, a fundraising auction was held to sell off the luxury liner’s contents. Your ice bucket most likely came from this auction.

In 2011, a historic preservation group, the SS United States Conservancy, purchased the ship, saving it from being recycled — literally scrapped for its metal. The SS United States Conservancy hopes to restore and redevelop the ship into a vibrant waterfront attraction with public amenities.

With the desirability of ocean liner memorabilia, the historical importance of the SS United States and the rarity of your ice bucket, I would estimate its value at $1,400.


More from our series on Pamela Smart

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Lasting Symbol

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A Classic Mint Julep Cup

Mint julep cups are passed from generation to generation.
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