Private Dinosaur Collectors Price Museums Out Of The Market

The cost of these scientific relics are being pushed into the millions.

T-Rex Skeleton
The Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton known as Sue stands on display at Union Station in Washington D.C. (Mark Wilson/Newsmakers)

Wealthy private collectors, Hollywood celebrities among them, are driving the market price of dinosaur bones up so high that museums and scientific institutes are being shut out.

A private collector recently purchased a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton for $10 million. Those looking to drop dough on a diplodocus should be prepared to shell out up to $1.1M.

Last year, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) demanded that Aguttes, a French auction house, halt the sale of a unknown species of dinosaur bones. The auction listing claimed the winner could name the species which is false as the International Code of Nomenclature was in charge of that process.

“The sale of all fossils is inappropriate,” Catherine Badgley, former president of the SVP, told The Guardian. “Many, particularly vertebrate fossils, are rarely common, and it’s certainly not the case for dinosaurs. The commodification is in principle inappropriate because it motivates unscrupulous people.”

Hollywood celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and Nicolas Cage have all had their eye on a famous fossil or two. Cage paid $276,000 for a T-rex skull that turned out to be stolen and later returned to China.

Badgley hopes collectors will steer clear of unique or rare specimen as they’re the most valuable to the scientific community.

“There isn’t a strong link between expensive trophy specimens and an increase in the science of paleontology.” she says. “If anything, they’re seen more for their rarity and economic value than for their scientific information. It’s not necessary for people to become interested in paleontology by having a unique specimen that’s theirs and theirs alone.”

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