A remarkable collection of Maori artefacts including a hei tiki pendant once owned by a famous Arctic explorer is going under the hammer in New York next week.

The sale includes the carefully-crafted pounamu pendant along with a Maori paddle, taiaha, treasure box, and bird snare.

The hei tiki is the star of the Sotheby's Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas auction and is expected to fetch $43,000 - $57,000.

Its first recorded owner was the Arctic explorer Sir William Edward Parry, the first European to deliberately winter in the Arctic during his pursuit of a Northwest Passage aboard HMS Fury from 1821-1823.


From 1829-1834, Parry was commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens in New South Wales.

"He did not travel to New Zealand, and whether he acquired the hei tiki in Australia or in England remains unclear," Sotheby's catalogue note states.

One of the taiaha and the paddle were formerly in the hands of British collector of ethnographic artefacts, James Thomas Hooper. The taiaha has an estimate of $5780 - $8670 while the paddle is expected to make at least $4000.

A Maori treasure box, or waka huia, is also expected to generate interest in the May 15 sale, with an estimate of $14,000 - $21,000.

Meanwhile, Bonhams is selling another hei tiki which has come from a private Florida collection at its African, Oceanic and pre-Colombian art sale in Los Angeles on May 23. It has an estimate of $5800 - $8700.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage monitors auctions within New Zealand, but does not follow those held overseas.

It has no ability under legislation such as the Protected Objects Act 1975 to stop sales, or force repatriation of cultural heritage material sold at auction overseas.

In June last year, an ornate Maori carving, described as being a "remarkable tour de force" by a master carver, was sold at Christie's Art d'Afrique et d'Océanie sale in Paris for $321,000.

Also sold at the auction was a rare Maori flute or putorino for $246,000, a wooden hand club from Taranaki which fetched $105,000, a hei tiki reached $17,500, hand carved whalebone short thrusting weapon sold for $47,000, a collection of six pendants went for almost $5000, and a long-handled Maori club weapon was snapped up for $37,000.

Maori artefacts have been hot items with international museums and private collectors in recent years.

A hei tiki fetched $165,290 at Sotheby's in New York in 2008.

In 2014, a rare Maori statue - one of just six known pou whaikairo sculptures in the world - sold at Sotheby's for a world record $2.28 million.

In 2015, two ornately-carved Maori statues that once adorned whare gables fetched $160,000 at Sotheby's in New York.