One of the largest known Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons sold at an auction Tuesday for a record $31.8 million, defying expectations and making it the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold.
The 67-million-year-old specimen, nicknamed “Stan,” was sold by the British auction house Christies to an unidentified bidder. It’s one of the largest known near-complete T. rex skeletons and was originally estimated to sell for between $6 million and $8 million. However, after 20 minutes of telephone bidding, the fossil’s final sale price, including fees, nearly quadrupled these estimates.
The last complete skeleton of a T. rex was auctioned in 1992. “Sue,” as the fossil was named, was sold by Sotheby’s for $8.36 million to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago with major corporations like Disney and McDonalds chipping in for funding.
Named after the amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison, who discovered the fossil in 1987 in South Dakota, Stan drew interest among buyers due to its good condition and large size, which made it a rarity in the world of dinosaur auctioning. It's "one of the best specimens ever discovered," James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History department, said in an article on Christie's website.
Comprised of 188 bones, Stan is 40 feet long, 13 feet tall, and has teeth over 11 inches. The specimen is also notable for two fused vertebrae scientists have identified in its neck. For the past two decades it was studied intensely at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota.
Sacrison found the first of Stan’s bones in the Hell Creek Formation, which includes parts of Montana, North and South Dakota and Wyoming. The bones were initially misidentified as Triceratops bones, which are fairly common finds.
It wasn’t until years later at Black Hills that scientists realized the bones were that of the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex.
The massive sale Tuesday closed Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, which, according to the auction house, amassed a worldwide online audience of 280,000.
The event featured other works spanning the 20th and 21st centuries.