SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Appraiser and antiques dealer Albert Ford II collects pieces of history. But the ones he's kept tucked away tell a story of survival from the Titanic, one of the deadliest maritime disasters.
The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that collided with an iceberg and sank in the north Atlantic during the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. It was on a maiden voyage from England to New York.
More than 1,500 died, including Ford's grandfather and several other relatives.
Ford's father was only 3 at the time and never met the father he lost at sea.
"I never heard him mention anything other than his father drowned. He could say that. It really impacted him hugely," recalled Ford.
Ford said when he heard about the Titanic as a teenager, he became consumed.
"I had started seeing things in the house that reminded me of the Titanic, like the large picture -- which is my father's -- of the sinking of the Titanic, which had been painted four or five months after the Titanic went down,’ he explained.
Then Ford began a fateful connection with a Titanic survivor around 1970.
"I got a telephone call from a man in London, England who said to me, 'Mr. Ford, I know that your grandfather went down on the Titanic and I know you might be interested in something that we just uncovered.’ What he had uncovered was a picture of Eva Hart, her mother, and her father, just before sailing on the Titanic," said Hart.
Hart, who was a child at the time of the disaster, boarded the ship with her parents. But her mother had a bad feeling about the trip ahead.
"Apparently Eva Hart was the only person to leave the Titanic with her original clothing because her mother refused to allow her to undress. She was sure the boat was going to go down and sure enough she was right," said Ford.
Hart and her mother were allowed on the lifeboats with other women and children, but her father perished.
"Eva Hart grabbed her small suitcase and with the small suitcase, the only tag known from the Titanic, was still on it," said Ford.
The tag resurfaced during a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina as Ford was browsing in an antique shop.
"There was a very small framed something and I got closer and closer to it, picked it up, looked at it and it was a baggage claim tag to the Titanic that had belonged to Eva Hart along with some shredded rope that apparently came from the lifeboat that she escaped in from the Titanic," said Ford.
He said there was no doubt this was the real deal.
"The fading, the writing, the way it had been framed at least 70, 80 years earlier," explained Ford.
He bought the tag for $125.
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if at auction it would go something in the area of $250,000, maybe more," he continued.
But he has no intent to sell it.
"Only because of the sentimentality of my grandfather, who I never met, who my father never knew. I just feel there's a reason why I have it."