USS Constitution naval flags set world records at auction

A unique collection of rare US naval flags from the historic USS Constitution set world records at a Philadelphia auction on April 30.

The 11 flags, which had never been available on the open market before, included three United States Navy ensigns. All 11 achieved world records for their type.

The USS Constitution was launched in 1797, and is the oldest commissioned naval vessel. Known as "Old Ironsides", she last sailed on her 200th birthday in 1997, and can now be seen in her hometown of Boston.

USS Constitution flag
A 31-star circa 1851 ensign, flown from USS Constitution, sold for $158,000

A rare 31-star, 16 foot wide ensign, flown from the Constitution circa 1851, sold for $158,000. It is thought to be the last ensign flown from the USS Constitution prior to it being "laid up in ordinary" in 1855 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard.

A Commodore's Broad Pennant from the ship, believed to have been employed between 1837 and 1845, likewise sold for $158,500. It is the oldest example of such a pennant.

A rare circa 1846 28-star emsign achieved $134,500, while a 19-star version from 1816 made $110,500.

Two foreign naval ensigns from the Constitution also featured. The English and Imperial Brazilian items, both from the first half of the 19th century, sold for $43,750 and $50,000, respectively.

A cannonball removed from the hull of the ship made $22,500, bringing the collection to a total of $2.5m.

"We are proud that the American public recognized the historic significance of these flags from 'Old Ironsides' and stepped forward to protect our nation's treasures into the future," said the auction house's chairman Samuel M Freeman.

We have one of the most important Cuban flags in existence for sale: a unique pre-revolution Cuban flag, autographed by both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock