How much does a dinosaur cost?

Dinosaur bones go on auction, even in Italy: here's how much a dinosaur can cost.

When in 2020 was sold at auction the T Rex known as Stan, a giant 12 meters high studied for over twenty years, the community of paleontologists revolted: selling to a private the remains of a tyrannosaur of 67 million years ago, would have deprived the scientific community of the opportunity to study it more thoroughly.

And yet the custom of collecting dinosaur bones is gaining momentum, even better if they are whole specimens or nearly whole, and auctioned off by the world's most prestigious auction houses.

The price of a dinosaur

The T Rex Stan was sold at Christie's New York for a record $31.8 million. But how much can a dinosaur cost?

The incredible amount paid by the anonymous buyer of Stan depends on a complex series of factors: first of all, it was a specimen that had 188 original bones out of 380. To give an idea, the most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world, the famous Sue - sold shortly before Stan - has 250. It is also one of the most studied and exposed specimens in the world, a real celebrity for paleontology enthusiasts since it was discovered in South Dakota in the eighties.

Stan was sold for four times the price at which Sue was sold, shattering all records in the field, with the prohibition for the owner to reproduce 3D scans of any kind.

It is not uncommon to intercept sales of specimens or parts of dinosaurs: it seems that after the release of Jurassic Park, in 1993, was born a real category of collectors hunting for skulls, teeth and bones of large animals extinct now 65 million years ago.

And with the collectors, come the prices - obviously on the rise. Dinosaur prices are rising, and the market - though destined for a few lucky millionaires - seems to be expanding.

Dinosaur collectors

Next December, Milan-based auction house Cambi Casa will auction its second dinosaur specimen: it's Henry, a 4-meter-tall specimen of Hypacrosaurus from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, in Montana.

The auction base will start at a figure around 250 thousand euros, but recent history suggests that it could go much, much higher. Just think that the quotation of an egg of Aepyornis Maximus, sold a few years ago for 130,000 dollars, has increased fivefold in the course of a decade.

When Nicholas Cage and Leonardo di Caprio fought at auction for the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar, then returned by the good Cage because it was discovered that it had been stolen in Mongolia, it reached a figure of 276 thousand dollars.

The bones of Big John, the largest triceratops in the world, were recently sold in Paris for over 6 million euros, but it is not surprising: only the skull of the prehistoric giant is over two meters long, and the skeleton is 60% complete.

The trade of dinosaur fossils is a novelty for the Italian market, which does not enjoy a global success: if, for example, in the United States it exists since the end of the nineteenth century, in China it is strictly forbidden.

In the far 1999, someone tried to sell fossils on the newborn platform Amazon: since then, the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology carefully monitors the buying and selling of this kind of objects.

"The sale of vertebrate fossils of scientific significance is not tolerable," it thundered in a statement about the affair, "unless they remain a common good."

The last time the Society tried to draw attention to the affair was for T Rex Stan.

But dinosaur collecting, it seems, is just beginning.