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This richly patinated 2ft 8in (81cm) long club was catalogued as 18th-19th century by Marlow's and estimated at £400-600 at the sale on August 6.

Strong commission bids opened proceedings on the day at £8200, but a UK dealer in the room fought his way through to top those at £11,000, only then to have to fight off a challenge from three phone bidders before securing it at £16,000 (plus 20% buyer's premium).

Decoration

The club was decorated with carved stylised figures, animals, geometric designs and dot decoration. To one side was an inlaid bone segment. It came from a deceased European collection of weapons.

Although it was offered in a specialist military collectors' sale, such clubs have moved into the realm of tribal art and are proving to be a hit with collectors.

The market for South Pacific hardwood clubs is particularly strong. Lewes auction house Wallis & Wallis sold another Tongan war club, this time with a spatula head and longer at 3ft 6in (1.08m), to a German collector for £16,500 on June 9.