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Jackie Howe shears fetch big price at auction -

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TONY EASTLEY: A pair of shears owned by the man described as the greatest sheep shearer who ever lived has sold at auction for $38,000 - double what was expected.

Presented to Queenslander Jackie Howe in 1893, the mechanical shears look like an oversized, old-fashioned men's shaver.

Auctioneers say the sale underlines how rare items from Australia's colonial history are highly valued.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: Described once as "the Bradman of the Boards", Queenslander Jackie Howe is still considered the greatest shearer who ever lived.

AUCTIONEER: Important historical item here: the Jackie Howe mechanical shears, lot number 37…

ALISON CALDWELL: So it was hoped his own hand shears would attract a great deal of interest at an auction in Melbourne last night.

AUCTIONEER: All done at $38,000. Last chance. (Sound of hammer) Thank you at $38,000…

ALISON CALDWELL: Given to him by the Wolseley company in 1893, Jackie Howe's hand shears were expected to fetch just half that amount.

Sotheby's Geoffrey Smith says it's a good result.

GEOFFREY SMITH: There was competition and I could glean that there were several telephones involved. It was fiercely contested.

ALISON CALDWELL: What does it say about the value of a rare item such as that from Australia's colonial history?

GEOFFREY SMITH: I think of that period in Australian history, the 1890s, when you think of the artists and the writers who were preoccupied with Australia, the land of the Golden Fleece, riding on the sheep's back, and in 1890 Tom Roberts created Shearing the Ram.

So, you know, to contextualise these shears within that milieu is very important.

(Sound of ukulele version of Click Go the Shears)

ALISON CALDWELL: Dubbed "glorified scissors", the mechanical hand shears were presented to Jackie Howe after he sheared 321 sheep in seven hours and 40 mins in 1892, a record which still stands today.

Jackie Howe set his record near Blackall in Queensland.*
Ian Auldist is the chairman of the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame. He says Jackie Howe's achievements are renowned.

IAN AULDIST: He was a wonderful athlete and he set very high tallies. His achievements, they are representative of the wonderful achievements of all shearers.

ALISON CALDWELL: Two of Howe's shearing medals and a fob watch sold for a record $360,000 in 2008. They ended up in the National Gallery and toured Queensland a year later.

Ian Auldist hopes Jackie Howe's hand shears will one day end up in the Shearers Hall of Fame.

IAN AULDIST: Certainly if the owners of the handpiece wish to display or make available for public display the handpiece, the Shearers Hall of Fame would be very happy to display the handpiece in suitable conditions of security. And certainly the Hall of Fame would be honoured if such an opportunity arose.

TONY EASTLEY: The chairman of the Australian Shearers Hall of Fame Ian Auldist ending Alison Caldwell's report.

*EDITOR'S NOTE (30 October 2013): The original broadcast item incorrectly stated Jackie Howe was from Blackall. In fact, he set the record near Blackall, but hailed from the Darling Downs. The transcript has been corrected.