The demand for rare fossilized dinosaur skeletons seems to be at a fever pitch lately, with sales breaking auction records faster than a pack of raptors can destroy an ill-conceived amusement park. Disappointed bidders who missed out on Stan the T.Rex in 2020 or Hector the raptor in May of this year can sharpen their paddles, because a Gorgosaurus skeleton is set to headline Sotheby’s Natural History auction on July 28.
Similar in bearing to the T. rex but predating the tyrant king by some 10 million years, the Gorgosaurus reigned as top predator in a region including the prehistoric Western United States and Canada roughly 77 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period. The particular specimen going under the hammer this month was discovered in 2018 in the Judith River Formation near Havre, Montana, according to Sotheby’s, and it is the first of its kind to be offered at auction.
“In my career, I have had the privilege of handling and selling many exceptional and unique objects, but few have the capacity to inspire wonder and capture imaginations quite like this unbelievable Gorgosaurus skeleton,” Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture, told NPR. The skeleton stands at almost 10 feet tall on two legs and measures 22 feet long, including the tail.
In general, dinosaur skeletons are the mien of public museums, and this is the only Gorgosaurus specimen to be up for private purchase, presenting a unique opportunity for ownership that will no doubt rankle some — as the private sale of such rare skeletons has proved contentious. In 2020, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology urged Christie’s to halt the auction of Stan, warning that if the dinosaur was sold, it would be “lost to science.”
“The sale should be restricted to bidders from institutions committed to curating specimens for the public good and in perpetuity, or those bidding on behalf of such institutions,” read a letter from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. “Scientifically important vertebrate fossils are part of our collective natural heritage and deserve to be held in public trust.”
But just as the Gorgosaurus once ruled the earth, now cash is king, and Sotheby’s has estimated the fossil to sell for anywhere between $5 million and $8 million. Given the tendency for these skeletons to crush their estimates like a slow paleontologist in the jaws of a computer-generated Allosaurus, anyone hoping to make this Gorgosaurus a statement piece in their living room better bring some extra reserves!