A pair of Maori busts carved from kauri gum have fetched more than $6000 at auction today.

The rare carved Maori heads went under the hammer at Cordy's Antique & Art auction in Auckland this morning.

They were snapped up for $6250 by a private bidder from the Bay of Plenty, auctioneer Andrew Grigg said.

The busts, which are at least a century old, feature high-ranking Ngati Porou chief Tamati Tamaiwhakanehua and his granddaughter Princess Te Rangi Pai, also known as Fanny Howie, who penned the famous New Zealand lullaby, Hine E Hine.


Carving busts - and other crafts including jewellery - from fossilised resin extracted from kauri trees was a popular activity in the 19th century.

However, many of the busts are smaller and feature less-intricate detail than the pair that Kim Brice grew up with admiring on his family's mantelpiece.

"They were quite awe-inspiring and special to us," said Brice, who sold the items on behalf of his 77-year-old father, Jarvis "Codge" Hamilton Brice.

His father wanted them to "go to a good home, possibly a museum".

Brice is a descendant of Te Rangi Pai whose song Hine E Hine was used from 1979 to 1994 in TV2's iconic Goodnight Kiwi animation.

Before the sale, Grigg told the Herald: "The pair of kauri gum busts are certainly the largest that we have handled and to remain intact and together after 100-plus is quite an achievement.

"They have a good provenance and a real presence, the carver has captured an elegance that is often lost."

Quality New Zealand historical items are becoming increasingly collectible, Grigg said.

A kauri gum mere hand club previously sold for $7500 at Cordy's.