One man's trash is another man's treasure, and what was once a discarded pot lid is now set to fetch the big bucks at auction.

Discovered in a Melbourne rubbish dump in 1995, the 90mm Victorian-era pot lid known as the "Māori Chief" is expected to sell for more than $15,000.

The toothpaste pot lid goes under the hammer on Friday next week in Upper Hutt as part of the Kiwi Auctions sale at 7pm.

It is believed the pot lid, featuring an unknown chief, was created by Auckland chemist Stephen Gilbert, who operated between 1883 to 1916.


"Chemists used [to] transfer printed ceramic containers during the Victorian and Edwardian era advertising toothpaste, cold cream, ointment and other products," Kiwi Auctions said in a statement.

"It is thought Stephen Gilbert got the idea for his famous 'Māori Chief' image from one of New Zealand's early antique and curio merchants, Sigvard Dannefaerd, who sold Māori artefacts and had a shop a few doors away from Gilbert's chemist shop in Queen St."

A marble soft drink bottle embossed with a Māori chief head, named as Tamati Waka Nene in the trademark registration, is also going up at the auction.

The bottled was used by Native Mineral & Aerated Water, which Sigvard Dannefaerd set up in 1899 in Ponsonby, and is set to sell for an estimated $1000.

The marble soft drink bottle. Photo / Supplied
The marble soft drink bottle. Photo / Supplied