• Monday, July 15, 2024
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The world’s most expensive feather reaches $28,365 at auction

The world’s most expensive Feather reaches $28,365 at auction

A rare and highly prized feather from the extinct New Zealand huia bird has made history by selling for NZD$46,521 (US$28,365) at auction, marking it as the world’s most expensive feather ever sold.

This hammer price dramatically surpassed initial estimates of NZD$2,000-$3,000 and eclipsed the previous record of NZD$8,400 set by another huia feather in 2010.

Weighing approximately 9 grams, the feather’s value stands at a staggering NZD$5,169 per gram, far exceeding the current gold price of NZD$127 per gram.

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This extraordinary valuation shows the cultural and historical significance of the huia bird, which was last confirmed sighted in 1907, although it is believed to have survived into the 1920s.

The huia, the largest of New Zealand’s wattlebird species, was revered for its beautiful song, glossy black feathers, and distinctive long tail feathers tipped with white. The bird held deep cultural importance for the Māori people, with its feathers symbolizing prestige and worn only by rangatira (chiefs) and individuals of high status.

European demand for huia feathers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries contributed significantly to the bird’s extinction.

Leah Morris, head of decorative arts at Auckland-based Webb’s auction house where the feather was sold, attributed the feather’s high price to its exceptional condition and the meticulous efforts to preserve it using archival paper and UV glass.

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“The huia is such an iconic bird, and a lot of people really relate to the bird in some way,” Morris told The Guardian. The feather was noted for its minimal bunching, rich brown and iridescent hues, and absence of insect damage.

Registered as a taonga tūturu (authentic treasure) with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the feather can only be owned by a registered taonga tūturu collector and cannot be taken out of New Zealand without permission.

Due to confidentiality agreements, Morris could not reveal details about the vendor or buyer, other than confirming both were registered collectors based in New Zealand. Notably, there were no international bids.

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The auction, attended by about 30 people with all bids placed via phone or online, ended with a rare round of applause as the hammer came down.

The event underscored the enduring fascination and respect for the huia, a bird whose legacy continues to captivate collectors and enthusiasts worldwide.

In a similar display of the huia’s lasting allure, a pair of stuffed huia sold for NZD$466,000 in 2023 at a British auction, despite calls for the New Zealand government to repatriate the specimens.

This recent feather auction reaffirms the huia’s profound cultural and historical value, echoing its significant role in New Zealand’s heritage.