A collection of rare and historic rugby memorabilia amassed by All Blacks legend Charlie Saxton is going under the hammer.

The unique cache of historic rugby artefacts includes a jersey belonging to South African rugby legend Danie Craven, swapped with Saxton during the Springboks' 1937 tour of New Zealand.

The Craven jersey, with an estimate of $6000‑$9000, headlines Thursday's sale from the Charlie Saxton estate at ART+OBJECT auction house in Auckland.

The collection consists of more than 500 individual items including rare rugby balls, jerseys, match programmes, photographs, crests and gifts that record a lifetime of involvement in the game.

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Saxton played seven matches for the All Blacks, including three tests, in 1938.

His career was blighted by the outbreak of the World War II, immediately after which the Major in the 19th Armoured Regiment captained the Kiwis (2nd NZEF team) on their historic tour of Britain and France, where he played 21 games, including five internationals.

Pam Plumbly, ART+OBJECT's manager of rare books, said each item, personally amassed by Saxton during his long and illustrious career, was a "personal memoir" to him.

The wealth of material dating to 1945/46 is "almost a day by day record of that famous tour", Plumbly said.

Saxton's grandson Hamish said while it was sad to part with the memorabilia, the Saxton family felt it was time to share it with rugby enthusiasts and collectors from New Zealand and around the world.

"Such historic items require new curators and contemporary expertise for their ongoing protection and enjoyment," he said.

"We were so fortunate to be a part of Charlie's extraordinary life and history and we will continue to cherish and retain those precious memories."

Saxton was born in 1913 in Kurow, near Oamaru.

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As a young man of moderate height, he was a natural halfback who played 64 first-class games for three provinces: Southland, Otago and South Canterbury.

The collection includes rare pieces from the 1938 tour to Australia including a jersey he swapped with legendary Wallabies halfback Ces Romalli.

Another highlight is the original woollen jersey worn by Saxton when Otago won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 1935 against Canterbury.

A life member of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) and Otago Rugby Football Union, Saxton's administrative career included coaching Otago from 1950-56, being NZRFU president in 1974, a council member from 1956-71, and a term as All Black manager for their 1967 tour to Britain and France.

He died in 2001, aged 88.