New Zealand's largest private rock collection up for grabs

New Zealand's largest private rock collection is up for sale.

Vince Burke, 85, has spent the past 50 years collecting the rocks which he keeps at his Birdlings Flat home, near Christchurch.

Burke's hobby grew so big, it became a full-blown museum.

"If I said 10 or 12,000 we'd be getting close to the mark," he said.

Burke's always loved hunting but after a heart attack, he traded deer, for rocks - and 50 years later the 85-year-old is still adding to the collection.

He was out collecting at the Rangitata River just four days ago.

Nestled near the banks of Birdlings Flat, the museum attracts visitors from all over the world. 

"We had to build the room because I had most of [the rocks] in the house and my wife wanted it out," he said.

Burke's collection includes rare rocks from Oamaru as well as the largest known aggate to come out of Mt Somers.

Using a homemade saw, Burke cuts and polishes most rocks before they go on display.

The mystery of what's inside is part of the thrill - and the price - because Burke is selling up.

"I'm getting on and I'd sooner leave the children some money than a pile of rocks."

He'd let the lot go for $650,000. 

"In two years, time if nobody shows any interest in the whole collection I'll start putting a price on each one because people definitely want to buy them out of the cabinets."

Including his prized possession - a petrified log. 

"It's one of the very, very best that's come out of the Hororata."

While most of the rocks have been collected from around Canterbury, some come from as far south as the Catlins and some as far north as Kaipara, there are even some from as far away as Australia.