Image: Auction scene
Ed Bailey  /  AP
As seen through ancient shark jaws, a man talks on a cell phone during Thursday's prehistoric-creatures auction in New York.
msnbc.com news services
updated 6/25/2004 2:44:12 PM ET 2004-06-25T18:44:12

More than 60 million years after the triceratops dinosaur roamed what is now Montana, its horn went to 6-year-old Eamon Rush for $550 at a Park Avenue auction.

The horn, one of hundreds of parts of prehistoric creatures being sold Thursday, could be as old as “100 million thousand billion centuries!” Eamon said after he made the winning bid.

It was a bargain for Lot 69, offered at an estimated value of $1,500 to $2,000 by Guernsey’s at its “Dinosaurs & Other Prehistoric Creatures” sale.

World-class prizes of paleontology, worth tens of thousands of dollars, went on the auction block Thursday evening. But many of the items went unsold, including the nearly complete skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur, a horned dinosaur skull and prehistoric shark jaws.

Auction stirs controversy
The highest bid at the auction went for something that was not a fossil at all. A skeleton of a humpback whale found in 1844 and once owned by showman P.T. Barnum fetched a telephone bid of $160,000. The estimated price had been $200,000 to $300,000.

Guernsey’s had billed its sale as “the first major, full-blown auction focusing on prehistoric creatures.” But it stirred up controversy among scientists who believe such items belong in museums. Earlier this week, the company agreed to withdraw six dinosaur eggs after they were found to be smuggled from Argentina.

Thomas Lindgren, a natural history specialist at Bonhams & Butterfields, said he thought the general mood at the auction was flat. Part of the problem might have been the sheer number of fossils available, he said. “When you have 20 items that are all similar, it becomes a commodity.”

Prize for the archaeology club
Don't try telling that to Eamon Rush: He was thrilled with his purchase, even though the tip of the triceratops horn was rebuilt by a human hand. The Manhattan boy planned to bring home the dinosaur horn for the archaeology club he started with a classmate.

His mother, Joanna Rush, had taken him to the Armory earlier in the week for a preview of the auction, “and he says to me, ‘I’ll take anything, anything!’ I said everything is thousands and thousands of dollars!”

She also heard that a lucky bid could cut the price.

On Thursday afternoon, Eamon showed up on Park Avenue in a bright tie-dyed top, so when he shot up with his paddle to signal his bid, everyone noticed. The adults held back higher bids so the 6-year-old could win.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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