This Feather Is Worth 40 Times Its Weight in Gold

Feather from extinct huia sells for $28K, becoming most expensive feather ever sold
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2024 10:25 AM CDT
This Feather Is Worth 40 Times Its Weight in Gold
The huia feather.   (Webb's Auction)

Someone just paid nearly $30,000 for ... a feather. Granted, it's a rare and pretty feather, but still one worth more than 40 times its weight in gold. The most expensive feather ever sold, it comes from the long-extinct huia, "the largest of New Zealand's wattlebird species, known for its beautiful song, its predominantly black glossy feathers and long tail feathers tipped with white," per the Guardian. The tail feather was expected to sell Monday in New Zealand for no more than $1,800. Instead, it sold at Auckland-based Webb's auction house for $28,365, smashing the $8,400 record for a huia feather sold in 2010.

Huia were sacred to the Indigenous Maori people. Among the group, only a rangatira (chief) or individuals with mana (prestige) could wear their feathers. Europeans ignored that rule upon arrival in New Zealand, however, leading to a craze for huia feathers that ultimately caused the species' extinction, the Guardian reports. People went wild for huia feathers after the Duke and Duchess of York were photographed wearing them in their hats in 1901, CNN notes. Six years later came the last recorded huia sighting. The birds had been considered rare even before the arrival of Europeans, per the BBC.

The feather auctioned Monday is well preserved with archival paper and UV glass and in excellent condition, the auction house said. "It's retained a lot of its colors ... its rich brown and iridescent color, and there is no sign of damage from insects," said Leah Morris, Webb's head of decorative arts. As a registered taonga tuturu (authentic treasure), the feather could only be purchased by a registered collector. It also can't leave New Zealand without permission from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (More New Zealand stories.)

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