Shearing legend Jackie Howe’s shears are going under the hammer at the end of the month.
Shearing legend Jackie Howe’s shears are going under the hammer at the end of the month. Contributed

Sotheby's to offer Jackie Howe shears

FIVE years after shearing legend Jackie Howe's medals sold at auction in Melbourne for $360,000, his presentation machine shears are now set to go under the hammer.

Being offered by the Howe family, the engraved shears were awarded to Howe by English makers Wolseley S.S.M. Co after Jackie Howe's record-breaking machine-shearing tally of 237 sheep in a day, which followed his hand-shearing record of 321 Merinos in seven hours and 40 minutes at Blackall in 1892.

Sotheby's Australia this week announced the forthcoming auction of the 'historic Jackie Howe Mechanical Shears' in their Fine Asian, Australian and European Arts and Design sale on October 29 in Melbourne.

A spokeswoman said the shears had an estimated value of between $15,000 and $25,000 - but then again, the medals were initially valued at just $35,000, before being picked up for six figures by a buyer with Warwick connections who did not wish to be identified by the Daily News.

"Inscribed 'presented to Jack Howe by the Wolseley S.S.M.Co January 1893', the shears followed Howe's award for the highest tally of sheep shorn with a shearing machine in 1892," the Sotheby's spokeswoman said.

"The record led historian Patsy Adam-Smith to call Howe 'the Bradman of the boards'.

"This particular machine handpiece was used by Jackie Howe for many years.

"Both the manufacturer Wolseley and Howe did well out of their relationship - the handpiece lasted and Wolseley could promote that they contributed to Jackie Howe's success."

Sotheby's Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith said the firm was "honoured" to be entrusted with the sale.

"While the man is no longer with us, his legacy remains through the tool of his trade,' Mr Smith said.

"Jackie Howe was not only a champion of the shearing shed, but also a champion for the worker, and contributed strongly to the development of the Australian Labor Movement."

Howe, born on Warwick's historic Canning Downs station in 1861, was known simply as the 'greatest shearer who ever lived'.

He won his medals and was given the Wolseley shears after an Australia-wide competition to find the country's best shearer was held at Blackall's Alice Downs Station 121 years ago almost to the day, on October 10, 1892.

Howe hung up his shears in 1900 and went into business.

The buyer of the Howe medals in 2008 told the Daily News at the time the purchase was "an emotional pledge" to the champion shearer.

Five bidders hotly contested Howe's medals and fob watch, including The Shear Outback Museum in Hay, NSW, who went to $100,000.

Another determined buyer drove the price up further than anyone had expected, with the eventual winner saying he had gone "weak at the knees" when his bold $360,000 bid was successful.

"There's nothing similar you could benchmark the medals against," the buyer said at the time. "This is totally an emotional thing - they're an icon and there is just one Jackie Howe."

The medals are on permanent loan to the Australian Museum and are regularly displayed on museum tours across the country.

Their buyer was not able to be contacted yesterday to see if they were planning to bid for the shears.

For those interested in bidding the auction will be held at Anzac House in Collins St in Melbourne at 6pm on Tuesday, October 29.

For more information, including remote bidding, visit

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