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World's most expensive feather sells for P1.6 million at New Zealand auction

By Melanie Uson Published May 23, 2024 6:14 pm

A single feather from the extinct huia bird from New Zealand was sold at an auction for $28,417 (over P1.6 million), making it the world’s most expensive feather ever sold.

The rare huia tail feather was initially priced at around $2,000 to $3,000 (P116,300 to P174,450), until it ramped up to $28,417 (over P1.6 million) on Monday, May 20. This is significantly higher than the previous sold price of $8,400 (US$5,150 in today’s exchange or P299,000) in 2010, as per Webb’s Auction House

According to the Museum of New Zealand, the feathers of huia birds are highly valued by the Māori people. It is often worn as a headpiece which symbolizes high status. It is also popular for gift-giving and trading. 

A huia feather is stored inside a protective glass with archival paper.

Its distinct features, especially the white tip across the edge, made it sought-after by Māori and Pākehā hunters in the nineteenth century to obtain and sell its skin to collectors and fashion merchants. 

The museum added that the bird was last seen in 1907, but there were reported unconfirmed sightings of the species twenty to thirty years after.

Leah Morris, Head of Decorative Arts at Webb's Auction House, told BBC News that the rare piece was sold “in wonderful condition.” 

"It still has its very distinct sheen to it, and there was no insect damage," she added. 

She added that they placed the feather on top of archival paper inside a UV-protective glass to further prolong its good state.  

The feather is registered as a taonga tūturu (authentic treasure) under the Ministry of Culture & Heritage and Auckland War Memorial Museum, which means only registered collectors can purchase it. They are, however, not allowed to bring the rare piece outside New Zealand without permission from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.