Secrets for Buying a Dinosaur for Your Collection


For many centuries, dinosaurs have been capturing imaginations in a way that no other creature can come close to. From the plethora of movies and animations modern day storytellers create all the way to the numerous fossilized remains found across the world, these creatures that walked the earth are items of both scientific and artistic intrigue. Now, it’s possible to buy a dinosaur, if you have the means.

TRX-293 Trinity, a 67 million year-old Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton coming from the Hell Creek and Lance Creek formations in Montana and Wyoming, is set to be the first “complete” T-rex to go on sale in Europe. This rare skeleton is made up of three T-rex fossils and will be put for auction at Koller Auctions in Zurich with a reserve of SFr5mn-SFr8mn (about £4.4mn-£7.1mn). It is estimated that this record-breaking event might even exceed the impressive $31.8mn sale of ‘Stan’ in 2020, the most expensive T-rex of all time.

Moreover, it looks like prehistoric relics have been increasing in popularity, especially among tech companies that are using them to add to the art-filled offices. Similarly, the two most prominent high art festivals in London featured dinosaur fossils, with a particular adult triceratops skull sold for a six-figure sum. David Aaron Gallery is the responsible party, whose portfolio includes the juvenile triceratops skull and a skeleton of the camptosaurus, taking the cake with its list value of one million sterling.

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of buying a dinosaur are its related ethical questions, as most legally traded fossils come from private ranches that employ commercial paleontologists. These diggers often will be entitled to share the profits of the sale with the owners of the land, with some of them being responsible for the discovery of various new species. The cancelled sale at Christie’s of ‘Shen’, an estimated $25mn-spending T-rex, was due to questions on how much of the fossil was a replica.

On a more positive note, many of these fossils, even those making it to private collections, eventually make it to museum exhibitions. For instance, ‘Sue’ can be found at the Chicago Field Museum, and ‘Stan’ is currently heading to Abu Dhabi’s future Natural History Museum. The fossil vertebrates curator of the Natural History Museum in London, Paul Barrett, highlights the shared opinion of many, saying that despite the polarizing debates there is a reasonable medium to be found in most cases. After all, many of these institutional fossil collections have been acquired from commercial collections.

Jack Horner, the man who acted as inspiration for Dr Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, emphasis the differences between those looking to dig up fossils for science and those doing it for personal profit by saying that the former aren’t out to buy the specimen themselves, instead looking to keep them in the public trust. On the other hand, those doing it purely for money – many of which are collectors – usually share them willingly, giving them access to a wider audience.

Finally, the sale of TRX-293 Trinity taking place this April 18th promises to be a breakthrough event and provide a better look into the past of a creature that has enchanted humanity throughout generations and will continue to do so. Once successful, the dinosaur is sure to take its place in an exhibition and, who knows, if you have the means, it could very well be taking up residence in your own home.