'Terraces' silica auction bids top $1m

FELICITY ROSS
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2011

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An online auction selling what claims to be part of the Pink and White terraces is attracting bids of more than $1 million on TradeMe.

A Taranaki man named John listed the item, a vial that he says is filled with a pre-eruption sample of the famous terraces, with an undisclosed reserve.

He said the vial was given to him when his grandmother died, when she was aged more than 100 years old, and it was a "priceless" sample.

Last night the bidding had reached $1.17m, and was yet to hit reserve.

The Pink and White Terraces, which formed on the shores of Lake Rotomahana, near Rotorua, were the largest silica terraces in the world.

They were thought to have been destroyed when Mt Tarawera erupted in 1886, but a joint New Zealand-American project recently discovered them 60 metres underwater in the 115-metre-deep lake.

On the auction, John said that if the reserve price was met, he would donate $100,000 for research into the Terraces but "a million would not be life-changing for me".

Trade Me spokesperson Paul Ford said they were confident the auction was not a joke.

"We are not geological experts but we believe the auction and the product is legitimate. It's up there with one of the highest-priced auctions we have ever had," he said.

As rare as the sample allegedly is, it is legal for someone to sell it.

The auction has attracted questions from curious traders, some with a dash of scepticism.

"So is it a sand sculpture made to look like the terraces or actually sand from the terraces in a bottle?" asked one trader.

"Do you have scientific proof to go with this? Like a certificate of authentication?" asked another.

John has said the sand will be subject to authentication for any genuine bidder.

When asked if he thought the sand was worth more than $1 million, John said: "I don't consider that price and worth mean the same thing."

The auction closes today at 12.47pm.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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