Full Lot Details - Lot Number 344
Hover for enhanced thumbnail. Click for full sized image. Click on background to close.
Description
R.M.S. TITANIC - UNIQUE ON-BOARD TITANIC LETTER RECOVERED FROM VICTIM'S BODY:
A superlative letter handwritten on oversized embossed on-board Titanic stationery by First Class victim Alexander Oskar Holverson to his mother on April 13th, 1912, well after Titanic had embarked on her maiden voyage and merely a day before her encounter with an iceberg. Since the ship had no further ports of call before reaching New York, Holverson's intent would have been to post the letter in New York. It represents one of the last known letters to have survived the sinking and the last known letter written on board by a victim. Since it was recovered from Holverson's body he obviously had still hoped to be able to send it on to his mother from New York. As she received it after the ship foundered this may be the only on-board letter written by a victim and delivered to its recipient without postage to date.

The letter is of bifold format, unsigned and written on three of its four pages. It bears the embossed red White Star Line burgee and is headed "On board R-M-S Titanic" in navy blue. Holverson dates the letter in the heading April 13th 1912, with the '191' pre-printed in navy blue. Each page bears a beautiful White Star Line five-pointed star logo watermark (not the more common Spartan soldier) and measures an incredible 7ins. x 9ins. when closed, making this the largest known format for any on-board Titanic letterhead. But for this example, this letter size was virtually unknown.

While the ink on the burgee and wording has not run, owing to the fine printing techniques and inks utilized by the line, the letter displays some colourful stains to the last (blank) page which was the page mostly exposed to the water evident from the way the letter had been folded by Holverson. The stains give testament to the reaction of the acid-rich paper with salt water.

If this letter were virtually blank, it would still rank amongst the most desirable. Yet, the content takes it to another level. Owing to the fact that it was written well into the voyage, Holverson was in a position to actually describe the on-board music and food, as well as life on board. The letter reads, in part, as follows (grammar in original):

"…This boat is giant in size and fitted up like a palacial hotel…If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M. I am sending you a postcard of the ship and also a book of postcards showing the inside…Mate had a letter from Mr. Berry at Buenos Aires which stated that she was getting on fine…Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor is on this ship. He looks like any other human being even tho he has millions of money. They sit out on deck with the rest of us…" (Emphasis Added)

Holverson's mention of seeing fellow First Class passenger John Jacob Astor sitting out on deck is an observation the likes of which we have not seen in previous letters written earlier in the voyage, particularly because as a First Class passenger Holverson had access to passengers that those in other classes did not have. He obviously had intended to include a postcard and an on-board postcard book for his mother. Having dealt with these rare postcard books before, we know that it would have been considerably larger than the folded letter and more difficult to carry with him off the ship. But the most ominous thing Holverson writes to his mother is that, "If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M." as if he knew that things may not have gone well. How ironic that these were words he took off the very ship on which he had hoped to arrive.

This lot is accompanied by an original large photograph, 5ins. x 9ins., of Holverson and his wife, Mary Alice. It is hand-captioned on verso, "Dec 1911 Mary Alice Holverson, Oscar Alexander Holverson leaving for South America previous to the Titanic". The photo shows the couple on the deck of a ship in New York harbour. We do not often encounter photos of Titanic passengers at the moment they are embarking on their outbound trip. It would display very well indeed with the letter. Also included in the lot are some unrelated handwritten letters from Holverson's mother to his brother, Walter.

Mr. Holverson was a successful salesman and had been on holiday with his wife in Buenos Aires (thus the reference to that city in the letter) before they arrived in Southampton aboard the Aragon. After a brief stay at the Piccadilly Hotel in London, Holverson and his wife boarded Titanic in Southampton. While Mrs. Holverson was rescued, Mr. Holverson did not survive. His body was the 38th to be recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. His pocket book was recovered within which this letter would have been kept, prior to it being returned with his other effects to his family. Holverson's body was sent to his family and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.

This letter is amongst the most iconic onboard the Titanic that we have ever seen. It is oversized, hand written on Titanic letterhead by a victim just a day before the ship hit the iceberg, mentions the food, the music and the elite on board, contains an ominous message with regards to the fate of the ship, was carried by its author into the Atlantic and, thence, onto the body recovery ship and shows evidence of its immersion in salt water. As such it ranks as one of the most important items of ephemera from Titanic that have ever been offered for auction, a truly world class example of Titanic memorabilia.
Provenance: From the Family of Alexander Oskar Holverson.
Estimate
 £60000 - 80000
VAT Status
W

Auctions and Value Added Tax

Notes for Buyers - A Summary

Items to be sold at auction within the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) can be offered under the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme or under normal Value Added Tax (VAT) rules.

VAT is potentially payable on the bid (hammer) price of the goods, on the auctioneer's commission in the form of a buyer's premium and on any charges relating to the goods (import, valuation, collection , storage, packaging, delivery, etc.).

For full details of the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme please refer to VAT notice 718. Normal VAT rules are detailed in VAT notice 700. Both document can be obtained from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat

VAT Code Definitions (Sales Tax) - A Summary

Each lot has a VAT code letter which defines how the lot is to be treated for VAT. The meanings of these codes are shown in the table below:

Auctioneers' Margin Scheme

MStandard rate item. Lot not liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% included within buyer's premium and not shown separately.
NZero rate item. Lot liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price at 0%. Lot liable for VAT on buyer's premium at 0%.

Lots Subject to Normal VAT Rules

VStandard rate item. VAT at 20% added to bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.
IStandard rate item. VAT at 20% included in bid (hammer) price. VAT included in bid price shown between ( ). VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.
WReduced rate item. VAT at 5% added to bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.
JReduced rate item. VAT at 5% included in bid (hammer) price. VAT included in bid price shown between ( ). VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.
ZZero rate item. Lot liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price at 0%. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.
EExempt item. Lot is exempt for VAT on bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.


Normal VAT Rules

VAT accounting is mandatory for VAT registered businesses in the UK and EU. VAT (Sales Tax) is added to the price of the goods at either 20% or 5% according to the goods classification. VAT registered businesses can reclaim VAT paid by them on purchases. The difference between VAT collected on sales and VAT paid on purchases is sent to HMRC.

Most commercial auctioneers (i.e. those involved in the disposal of commercial assets be reason of business mergers, administrations, liquidations, disposals, etc.) sell under normal VAT rules. This is principally because the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme cannot be used where the goods have had VAT on their purchase reclaimed from HMRC - as will almost always be the case when auctioning goods previously bought by VAT registered businesses.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with a single asterisk character (*) or a single dagger symbol (†) to indicate a VAT added rate of 20%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with a single 'at' character (@) to indicate a VAT inclusive rate of 20%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with a double asterisk character (**) or a double dagger symbol (‡) to indicate a VAT added rate of 5%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with double 'at' characters (@@) to indicate a VAT inclusive rate of 5%.

Lots subject to the 5% rate are often lots being sold under HMRC temporary importation rules where the import duty has been deferred until the point of sale and is to be paid by the buyer. However, some classes of goods do attract VAT at the reduced rate.

Please note that VAT on auctioneer's commission and charges is always at the 20% rate even if the good are subject to the 5% VAT rate.

A buyer's invoice will shoe the bid (hammer) price of the lots bought. VAT is added to the hammer price. The buyer must also pay the auctioneer's commission in the form of a buyer's premium, plus VAT on the buyer's premium at 20%. Any charges (e.g. delivery, packaging, etc.) will also be subject to VAT at 20%

Some auctioneers choose to sell VAT inclusive. This means that the bid (hammer) price achieved at auction already includes VAT at the appropriate rate. The true hammer price can be found by dividing the VAT inclusive price by either 1.2 or 1.05 as appropriate. VAT on hammer price, VAT on buyer's premium and VAT on charges will then all be based on the true hammer price. VAT inclusive lots will be marked as Inc or Nil in the on line catalogue.

Some classes of goods are either exempt or zero rated for VAT so there will be no VAT added to the hammer price for these goods.

Non UK or EU VAT registered buyers can have most classes of VAT refunded on their purchases - please note that auctioneers are under no obligation to provide VAT refunds, although many will offer this service. HMRC are the ultimate refunding authority. VAT refunds are subject to provision of statutory export/import documentation. HMRC have decreed that VAT on buyer's premium is always payable whether the buyer is domiciled in the UK, EU or outside the EU or wherever the goods are to be sent. So auctioneers cannot refund VAT on buyer's premium if the good are sold under normal VAT rules.

VAT is always calculated on a lot-by-lot basis. VAT totals on a buyer's invoice may show small rounding discrepancies. For example, if a buyer's premium was quoted at 17.5% inclusive of VAT, the actual buyer's premium rate would be 14.58333% plus VAT at 20%. Since currencies cannot have fractions of a penny or cents, rounding discrepancies will accumulate and cannot be avoided.

Auctioneers' Margin Scheme

Most auctioneers specialising in fine art and chattels - where VAT on the goods was originally paid but not reclaimed - choose to sell under the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme. The scheme is detailed in VAT notice 718, principally for disposal of non-commercial second-hand items, but in summary:

VAT is not payable on the bid (hammer) price.

Buyer's premium and VAT on buyer's premium are combined and shown as one total - VAT on buyer's premium is not shown separately and cannot be reclaimed by UK or EU VAT registered businesses or individuals.

Charges and VAT on charges are shown separately. VAT on charges can be reclaimed by UK and EU VAT registered businesses or individuals.

If a VAT registered UK or EU buyer wishes to reclaim VAT on purchases they can ask the auctioneer for a VAT invoice. This takes the relevant lots our of the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme and treats them all under normal VAT rules. The buyer will need to pay VAT on the hammer price of the goods. Buyer's premium and VAT on buyer's premium will be shown separately and VAT on buyers premium and charges can be reclaimed. A buyer cannot cherry pick which parts of the schemes they would want to utilise. For example, Auctioneers' Margin Scheme good cannot have VAT on buyer's premium shown separately unless VAT on hammer price is also paid to the auctioneers.

Non UK or EU VAT registered buyers can have all classes of VAT refunded on their purchases - please note that auctioneers are under no obligation to provide VAT refunds, although many will offer this service. HMRC are the ultimate refunding authority. VAT refunds are subject to provision of statutory export/import documentation.

VAT is always calculated on a lot-by-lot basis. VAT totals on a buyer's invoice may show small rounding discrepancies. For example, if a buyer's premium was quoted at 17.5% inclusive of VAT, the actual buyer's premium rate would be 14.58333% plus VAT at 20%. Since currencies cannot have fractions of a penny or cents, rounding discrepancies will accumulate and cannot be avoided.

Disclaimer

This note is an attempt to provide auction buyers with a summary of VAT law. The information is supplied in good faith but no warranties are given. Our advice is that buyers should raise queries with a local VAT office.

Effective from 1st January 2012



VAT on hammer price (highest bid) %
5
Buyer's Premium including VAT %
 
Buyer's Premium %
17.50
VAT on Buyer's Premium %
3.50
Artist's Resale Right Charge
No

Artist's Resale Right Scheme (Droit de Suite)


Following the UK's implementation of the EU Artist's Resale Right directive in 2006 living artists and with effect from 1st January 2012 artists deceased within the past 70 years are entitled to receive a resale royalty each time their artwork is sold in the UK by an art market professional, subject to certain conditions.

The payment is calculated on qualifying works of art which are sold for a hammer price or more than € 1,000. The UK sterling equivalent of € 1,000 will fluctuate in line with prevailing exchange rates. The actual qualifying threshold will be calculated by the Artist's Resale Right Service Hub based on the European Central Bank reference rate published at 2.15pm on the day of the sale and can be found on www.dacs.org.uk.

The royalty charge will apply if the hammer price is more than the UK sterling equivalent of € 1,000. The royalty charge will normally be added to the buyer's invoices and must be paid before items can be cleared. Some auctioneers may choose to split the charge between the buyer and the vendor. Some auctioneers may pass the entire charge to the vendor. Before bidding, we advise that you check which scheme your auctioneer is operating.

All royalty charges are paid to the Design and Artists Copyright Society ('DACS') and no handling costs or additional fees with respect to these charges are retained by the auctioneers.

Artist's Resale Right is a percentage of the hammer price calculated as follows:

Portion of the hammer priceRoyalty Rate
€ 1,000 - 50,000 4%
€ 50,000.01 - 200,000 3%
€ 200,000.01 - 350,000 1%
€ 350,000.01 - 500,000 0.5%
Exceeding € 500,000 0.25%
VAT is not payable on this royalty charge. The maximum royalty charge is € 12,500.

Revised 1st January 2012


CITES
No

CITES Regulations


Please note that lots marked with ~ in the main catalogue description and indicated by "YES" on the Full lot details page may be subject to CITES Regulations when exported.

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments that came into force in 1975. The import, export and use for commercial gain of certain species requires a CITES permit.

Over 2,500 animal and 25,000 plant species are included in the Appendices of CITES on Appendix I, II or III. In the European Union the CITES Appendices are replaced by Annexes A, B, C and D. Commission Regulation 1320/2014, which came into effect on 20 December 2014, provides a complete list of species controlled by CITES under the EU regulations.

The full CITES regulations may be found at www.defra.gov.uk