Rare huia feather regarded as 'significant piece' of history to be auctioned

6:44 pm on 15 May 2024
huia feather

Photo: Webb's

A single huia feather is expected to fetch over $2000 dollars at auction next week, according to Webb's auction house.

Huia feathers were popular in pre-colonial times and were worn by high-ranking Māori. After colonisation, the feathers gained in popularity among Pākehā in Britain when the Duke of York was pictured with a huia feather in his hat in 1901.

The feathers, with their blue-green metallic sheen, are now some of the most expensive in the world.

Webb's decorative arts specialist Florence S Fournier told Morning Report the feather was at least 100 years old.

"The huia is an extinct bird. The last confirmed sighting in Aotearoa was in 1907.

huia feather

Photo: Webb's

"It [the feather] has come from a private collection. It's been with the vendor for some time and he now feels it's time to move it on so some other person can enjoy it."

Fournier said huia feathers were available so rarely because the bird was extinct, and that there was a big demand from people who are interested in Māori history and New Zealand's natural history.

"They are such a neat piece to have to connect with an extinct bird of the past."

For this particular feather, not much was known about its history, but it has been well looked after and was intact. It has also been framed under UV glass especially for the auction to ensure its preservation for years to come.

Webb's last auctioned a huia feather in 2014. It sold for more than $8000.

"This one, with its estimate of $2000 to $3000, could be on the conservative side. We've had a lot of pre-auction interest in it already, showing that there is good demand for something like this."

While there has been a lot of interest in the feather, there was no risk it could end up overseas.

"What's really special about this feather is that it has been Y-registered by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage which means that it is a certified piece toanga tūturu, or a really significant piece of Aotearoa's tangible history.

"Only registered collectors of taonga tūturu may purchase this item and it will stay on a ministry register that ensures that it can't leave the country."