Peter Snell's Olympic singlet sells for $122k

(Supplied)
(Supplied)

Sir Peter Snell hopes whoever got $122,500 for his 1964 Olympics singlet donates "a chunk of it" to charity.

Te Papa has bought the singlet, which Sir Peter wore while winning gold in the 800m and 1500m race finals in Tokyo, at an auction on Tuesday.

"It's an amazing that someone would pay that. I'm glad it's going to be in Te Papa and not in some private collection," Sir Peter told Newshub.

It smashed the $50,000 top figure Auckland auction house Cordy's thought it might fetch. With the buyer's premium, --a percentage of the winning amount that must be paid at auction -- the final price will be $140,875.

"I can't get my head around it, I really can't. It's a heck of a lot of money in anyone's language -- even New Zealand dollars," said Sir Peter.

But to the museum it was a bargain.

"It's a great thrill for New Zealand and an item that has so much to tell us about our history, and the history of sport," the museum's chief executive Rick Ellis said in a statement.

It was too soon to say when and how the singlet would be put on display.

Sir Peter, 77, now lives in Texas. He was a protégé of athletics coach Arthur Lydiard and is widely considered one of the greatest middle-distance runners.

He said he did not remember giving it away, but probably did so for a charity event many years ago.

"I'm not sure how much it got at the time -- probably not a lot -- but it's been sitting around in someone's drawer for many years and I don't even know how much the person who put it up for auction paid to get it.

"It'd be interesting to know the history, but I hope he does the right thing and makes some generous donation to a worthy cause. The Parkinson's Foundation would spring to mind. I was a patron of that for a number of years. My brother had Parkinson's and eventually died from a fall and that would be my choice, I think."

As for the singlet, he originally hoped it would end up in the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in Dunedin, which is where he had planned to donate his Olympic medals.

"I'm going to talk to my two daughters who will be inheriting my stuff, and I think they'll be happy to see the medals go to where the singlet is."

The singlet still fell well short of the price for All Black Dave Gallaher's 1905 jersey -- which sold for £180,000 (NZ$368,136) in Wales last year.

Spokesperson for auctioneers Cordy's, Ross Miller, told Newshub the bidding for Sir Peter's singlet went down to the wire.

"There was a lot of interest -- there were four telephone bidders, two bidders in the room. We knew it was going to go, but these things are very, very hard to judge and some of these guys have very deep pockets."

The museum also snapped up a 211 year-old piece of wallpaper for what it claims is a bargain price of $230,000.

The 10m by 2m wallpaper depicts Captain James Cook's Pacific voyages, and has hung in a French chateau for more than two centuries.

More than 20 different indigenous Pacific peoples are displayed in the piece, including a Maori warrior, Tahitian princesses and a scene depicting Capt Cook's death.

Te Papa spokesperson Kate Camp says the artwork comes from a time when Europeans were fascinated by the new world.

"The name of this wallpaper in French, 'The Savages of the Pacific', harks back to an earlier time.

"It's not something we would ever use now, but I think it gives an insight into the way that the European public were looking at the Pacific as this exciting other world."

The wallpaper won't be on public display until 2019 because it needs extensive conservation work.

The display will coincide with the 250th anniversary of Capt Cook's death in Hawaii in 1779.

NZN / Newshub.