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Most Expensive Feather - Extinct Huia Feather Sells For $46,521 At Webb's Auction

Webb’s Auction House last night witnessed the highly competitive sale of a single feather of the now extinct huia bird which fetched a price of $46,521.50 reportedly making it the world’s most expensive feather.

“We are very pleased that this rare item of natural history has achieved such huge bidder interest,” said Leah Morris, Head of Decorative Arts at Webb’s Auction House, “highlighting the fragility of our ecosystem and the importance of looking after its fauna.” Potential buyers were required to provide a permit from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage before they were allowed to purchase.

The huia bird was a member of the wattle-bird family and its last credible, reported sighting was in 1907. Their feathers were very important to New Zealand Māori and were often worn as headpieces by chiefs and their families and also gifted or traded. The plumage is distinct as it has a beautiful white tip across the edge, which made it highly coveted for decoration in wearable garments such as hats.

The species has been so popular in local culture that iconic artist Bill Hammond made his career out of painting bird-like people, many of whom took their characteristics from the huia. Likewise, a Victorian, taxidermied pair of huia sold for $457,704 at a UK auction in 2023. 

The previous record of $8,400 was achieved in 2010, also by Webb’s, for a feather of the same bird species. All Webb’s prices include a buyer’s premium of 19.5%. 

The new record breaking feather, which went to a private collector, was sold at Webb’s Material Culture live auction, which saw exceptional prices reached for other objects such as: A Large Hei Tiki which sold for $10,157.50; a Prestigious and Chiefly Taiaha which sold for $9,560; and a Pā Kahawai Fishing Hook that reached $1,553.50.

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