A rare postcard signed by the entire 1953 British Mt Everest expedition, including Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, has been auctioned in Auckland today.
Just three months after conquering the world's tallest mountain for the first time, Hillary and fellow Kiwi expedition team member George Lowe, stayed at the Wellington home of prominent climber John Pascoe.
During the August 1953 stay, Lowe gave 11-year-old Anna Pascoe a postcard as a gift in appreciation of their low-key stay that provided a break from the public glare and official engagements that followed the stunning world-first success of Everest.
The postcard was signed by the entire expedition team, including Nepali Sherpa guide Norgay, as they travelled back to London on a BOAC Argonaut Speedbird airplane.
For the past 64 years, Anna Pascoe has treasured the remarkable keepsake, which has survived moves around New Zealand, the Canterbury earthquakes, and stints living in Germany, Canada and Papua New Guinea.
But now, the rare piece of New Zealand history has been sold at Cordy's auction house in Auckland to a "local private collector" for $1550.
Pascoe earlier told the Herald that she hoped a new home would preserve it for future generations.
"I've been so conscious of the signatures fading over the years, I just thought there might be someone out there who could look after it very well," she said.
It was hard for Pascoe to part with the postcard that evokes so many memories.
After being feted in London for scaling the world's highest mountain, Hillary and Lowe had returned to New Zealand to embark on a packed schedule of speaking engagements.
In Wellington, they stayed at the secluded Eastbourne family home of John Pascoe, a well-known personality in mountaineering circles who went on to write many books, including Unclimbed New Zealand.
Before the celebrity guests' arrival, Anna's mother Dorothy Pascoe sourced an array of exotic food.
But former beekeeper Hillary, already well known for his humble nature, instead requested "good old fashioned plain food", Anna recalls.
The Pascoes did, however, have to find extra-long divans to cater for the lanky explorers. John Pascoe played the banjo and yodelled on a gentle bush walk.
Word soon circulated that the Pascoes had some famous visitors.
Local children descended on the Pascoe residence, snaring autographs and photographs.
Young Anna wrote to her uncle Peter Harding, a sub-editor at the Sydney Morning Herald:
"This morning, four girls had been waiting at the bottom of our hill since 7am with nothing in their tummies, no breakfast ... At school, I think Sara [younger sister] and I will probably be very popular."
"With the entire collection of signatures of the 1953 team, this small piece of paper transports one back over six decades to an incredible feat of mountaineering," said Cordy's Ross Millar earlier.
"In a world of manufactured memorabilia this little postcard, with immaculate provenance, we trust will find a home with a passionate collector."
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg believes the sale is a record for a postcard sold at auction in New Zealand.
There were four main bidders, three in the room and one on the phone.
The winning bidder did not want to comment, but said it would be staying in New Zealand.
"Many of our customers were intrigued by the postcard and commented on how unique it was to have all of the signatures of the entire expedition team," Grigg said.
"Reaching the summit of Everest remains one of the greatest feats of endurance in the 20th century."