Explorer Captain Cook's waistcoat seeks $1m in New Zealand auction

The name of Captain Cook will be familiar to most as a highly successful British explorer and cartographer, credited with discovering and mapping regions all around the globe, especially around Australia and New Zealand, and the Pacific.

In a few hours' time in Auckland today (September 8), a fine piece of memorabilia related to the Captain will go under the hammer:  an eighteenth-century waistcoat - reputed to have been worn by the man himself.

It is being offered as part of a sale of Oceanic and African Arts at Webb's auction house in Auckland.

This is an outstanding and substantial sale of art and artifacts from Africa and the Oceanic region. Maori and Pacific material has been consigned from collections across the globe, including a significant collection from Hawaii (where Cook died in a fight).

Captain James Cook waistcoat
Did this waistcoat help explore the world?

The twilled silk waistcoat front is embroidered with an overall floral sprig design with concentrations of more complex flowers along the front edges, pocket flaps and across the front hem. The fine floss silk is embroidered in a range of natural colours in symmetrical floral patterns.

Two shaped embroidered pocket flaps have, at some time, been relocated as a collar at the neck. The waistcoat fastens at the front with nine brown leather-shanked buttons (not typical of this style) and hand worked buttonholes.

The back is made from cream linen and has also been altered to fit a woman. That woman was Ruby Rich, a colonial emancipationist and musical genius to whom the waistcoat is believed to have been given as a gift, and then passed down through her family.

The provenance of the item is imperfect, but widely accepted, and there are expectations that the waistcoat could sell for a six-figure sum, or even $1m.

Watch this space for the results of this exciting auction. Collectors interested in more affordable collectibles relating to intrepid explorers might be interested in this signed photograph of Edmund Hillary which is currently on the private markets, as is a letter by Ernest Shackleton.


Join our readers in over 200 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock