HALLE, Belgium — New Kim is worth her weight in gold and then some — actually much, much more.
A wealthy Chinese pigeon racing fan put down a record price of 1.6 million euros ($1.9 million) for the Belgian-bred bird, saying a lot more than merely what kind of money can be made in the once-quaint sport, which seemed destined to decline only a few years back.
During a frantic last half hour Sunday at the end of a two-week auction at the Pipa pigeon center, two Chinese bidders operating under the pseudonyms Super Duper and Hitman drove up the price by 280,000 euros ($325,000), leaving the previous record that Belgian-bred Armando fetched last year well behind by 350,000 euros ($406,000).
Super Duper got the hen, and behind the pseudonym is said to be the same wealthy Chinese industrialist who already had Armando, allowing for breeding with the two expensive birds.
It was proof again that an age-old hobby in Western Europe identified with working-class men now has a new, elitist foreign lease on life. 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.
On this occasion, successful breeder Gaston Van de Wouwer retired at 76 and his son had too busy a professional life to continue the famed pigeon coop. All 445 birds were put on auction and the overall sale was already pushing past 6 million euros ($7 million). A second part of the auction is ending on Monday, but didn’t include any bird that could match New Kim.
The news that a pigeon can sell for $1.9 million could prompt new challengers to enter the sport.