It came down to the wire at an auction house in Belgian with two Chinese bidders racing against the clock to acquire a Belgian-bred racing pigeon named New Kim. A wealthy Chinese industrialist, operating under the pseudonym, "Super Duper," outbid his opponent, "Hitman," and won the prized pigeon for a whopping $1.9 million.
The 2-year-old female bird was not the first pigeon Super Duper took home. In 2019, the racing bird enthusiast took home another star racing pigeon named Armando, a male, after paying a record $1.4 million at an online auction, CBS News reported.
During the last 30 minute of the nail-biting auction, Super Duper and Hitman's back-and-forth drove up the price by an additional $325,000 more than the previous record set during the Armando auction in 2019. All this flurry of excitement took place at Pipa, the Belgian auction house in Knesselare, Belgium, CBS reported.
Pigeon breeder Gaston Van de Wouwer, 76, put all 445 of his birds on auction because he plans to retire. The overall sale was already pushing past $ 7 million when New Kim went up for auction.
The only thing I can see is we are in total shock,” Van de Wouwer told Reuters.
New Kim’s new owners are expected to use her for breeding, BBC News reported. The auctioneers said the bird's gender made the sale even more unusual.
“These record prices are unbelievable, because this [New Kim] is a female. Armando was a male,” said Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, CEO and founder of auction holder Pipa. “Usually a male is worth more than a female because it can produce more offspring.”
According to The Royal Pigeon Racing Association, pigeon racing is a sport in which specially bred and trained pigeons are released from specific locations. They then race back to their home lofts.
Pigeon racing, once an age-old hobby in Western Europe among working class men, is now a popular gambling sport in China. With the rise of business wealth in China came also conspicuous consumption and a new venue for gambling. Top breeders relying on generations of family experience can now sell their birds for prices unheard of merely a decade ago, and often China is their destination, CBS reported.
Belgium is the place to breed these pigeons, Pascal Bodengien, head of the Belgian pigeon federation, told The Associated Press. After World War II, Belgium had over 250,000 members in the pigeon fancier federation. Now there are 18,000, Bodengien said.
He explained that pigeon breeding demands constant attention, every single day of the year. Those demands had turned away many modern folk, once sending the sport into a decline.
“Everybody is interested in our pigeons,” he said.
The sport however, he stressed, is one of commitment and patience. “To be the best, it has to be your life’s work,” Bodengien said. “For some, it may seem boring. Day in, day out, winter and summer, always those pigeons.”