Dinosaur for Sale (still)!
Bonhams & Butterfields tried to unload a dinosaur skeleton Saturday, but the piece was one of 17 lots that didn't move at the Natural History auction at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The auction house had originally hoped to pull in estimated $6 million for the 66-million-year-old bones of a 40-foot Tyronnosaurus Rex. In all, it was shooting for around $8 million in sales. Only 60 percent of the lots coming under the gavel sold.
The T. rex skeleton that nobody wanted (at least not at that price), named Samson, is the third most complete ever pulled from the ground, according to Thomas Lindgren, Co-Director of Natural History at Bonhams & Butterfields.
"'Samson'" is one of four known T. rex specimens which display characteristics that set it apart from other examples of the species," Lindgren continues. "In the dynamic science of paleontology, variation from one specimen to the next may indicate varying developmental phases, normal variations within a species, or it may represent the discovery of an entirely new species. As it stands, experts identify 'Samson' as Tyrannosaurus rex."
Samson was the first T. rex to come on the scene since 1997, when Sotheby's auctioned Sue, a dinosaur of similar size. The Field Museum in Chicago picked her up for a record $8.36 million – a price that still has not been topped. Sue is considered to be the largest and most complete T. rex ever excavated.
The Samson sale was put together by Lindgren on behalf of an anonymous seller. The dinosaur (female, despite the name), was found on a South Dakota ranch in 1987 and has since changed hands several times. Museums like to bid on these relics because they bring in (living) bodies ... lots of 'em. When the Field Museum picked up Sue, according to Bloomberg News, "lines formed around the block."
The other big ticket item, the largest set of shark jaws in the world from the prehistoric species, Carcharocles megalodon, also failed to sell. It was estimated to go at $900,000 to $1.2 million. Lot 25, a nearly complete skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur, posted the top selling price: $458,000.