NZ's largest collection of natural stones for sale

The tiny settlement of Birdlings Flat is home to New Zealand’s largest private collection of natural stones.

Vince Burke runs the Gemstone and Fossil Museum which is open to the public every day.  He estimates he has amassed two to three million individual items in his collection.

The sprightly 'rock hound' eagerly searches his local beach every morning for hidden gems before he opens up the museum.

"It's a good hobby, and It gets you out into the back country and up the hills and stuff like that. So it keeps you fit."

Burke's been collecting rocks since he started fishing with his father as a child. The retired builder opened the museum at his Birdlings Flat property in 2003, as a way of housing his steadily-growing hoard.

However, the 85-year-old admits time's catching up with him, and he's keen to sell his collection to another enthusiast.

"I'm getting older and my children are sort of interested, but I'd like to leave them a little bit more money than a pile of rocks they don't know the value of."

Birdlings Flat Gemstone and Fossil Museum owner Vince Burke. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Birdlings Flat Gemstone and Fossil Museum owner Vince Burke. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Burke is hoping to get $650,000 for the entire collection, which he said has been made rarer by foreign interests buying and closing off popular rock collecting areas.

He said while there's been interest from around the country, he's had no firm offers yet.

"If no one's interested in about two or three years time, I might itemize each stone or each slab, and then put them on the market and see what happens."

But whatever the result, Burke isn't going to let his age get in the way of hunting for more hidden gems.

Vince Burke can be contacted at:

- By Geoff Sloan, made with the support of NZ On Air