A Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton called Trinity – made up of the bones of three different T-Rexes – has sold for US$6.1m in a rare auction in Switzerland.
The skeleton, estimated to be 65m to 67m years old, had been expected to fetch a higher price after it was put up for sale by an anonymous US individual. It was bought by a private European collector of modern art and dinosaur relics at the Koller auction house in Zurich.
Auctioneer Cyril Koller said it was the first time in Europe and only the third time worldwide that an entire T-Rex skeleton of exceptional quality was offered at auction, Koller, Switzerland’s largest auction house, said in a statement.
“It was a wonderful auction because we showed Trinity for two-and-a-half weeks in the concert hall in Zurich. And so more than 30,000 visitors came and admired Trinity; a lot of children,” he told AFP.
Koller voiced optimism that although the skeleton had been sold to a private buyer, it would remain on public display.
“I’m 100% sure we will see Trinity in the future somewhere again,” he said.
The skeleton measures 3.9 metres high, 11.6 metres long and 2.65 metres wide. More than half the skeleton’s bones are original with the rest made from plaster and epoxy resin casts.
As its name suggests, Trinity is made up of a composite skeleton of 293 bones from three dinosaurs – excavated between 2008 and 2013 from the Hell Creek and Lance Creek formations in Montana and Wyoming.
The sites are known for the discoveries of two other significant T-Rex skeletons that have gone to auction.
“Sue” went under the hammer in 1997 for $8.4m, before “Stan” took the world-record hammer price of $31.8m at Christie’s in 2020.
Just over half of the bone material in the skeleton comes from the three Tyrannosaurus specimens – above the 50% level needed for experts to consider such a skeleton as high quality.
Vertebrate palaeontologist Thomas Holtz – who is against the sale of such specimens Holtz – was sceptical, insisting that Trinity “really isn’t a ‘specimen’ so much as it is an art installation”.
He also took issue with auctions of significant dinosaur skeletons and other fossils, which have raked in tens of millions of dollars in recent years.
Experts have warned such trade could be harmful to science by putting the specimens in private hands and out of the reach of researchers.