Working as a pawnbroker, Mark Manning was used to seeing weird and wonderful things coming through his shop. But even he was sceptical when one customer walked in with 101-year-old relics from the Titanic in a plastic carrier bag.

The punter claimed part of the collection which included a fragment of the doomed ship’s metal hull, had been gifted to him by George Tulloch – one of the men behind the controversial decision to bring artefacts up from the seabed in the 1990s.

After examining some accompanying documents, Mr Manning took the customer at his word and agreed to hand over £15,000 for the collection. To his amazement the story checked out and the relics have since been valued at more than £1.2million.

Last night Mr Manning, 50, said: ‘Initially, I thought it was mad, a bit of a hoax. It just seemed too good to be true.

‘For a start who carries around 100-year-old relics in a plastic bag, it just seemed a bit crazy. ‘But then the customer began to tell me his story, about how he came to own them. He had all the supporting documents, so it began to seem less insane and appeared genuine.

‘It was a massive gamble, handing over the £15,000, but now I know the collection is worth a lot more. I had one offer for £1.2million, but I don’t want to sell them just yet. I want people to get a chance to see them first.’

The customer, a civil servant and avid collector, from Wirral, Merseyside, became obsessed with the story of the Titanic as a young boy after he inherited a piece of wooden stairwell from a first class cabin on the liner.