Dinosaur skeleton fails to sell at Paris auction

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The top bid of EUR 490,000 falls short of price sought by owner.

17 April 2008
PARIS - A rare triceratops skeleton failed to find a buyer at a Christie's auction in Paris Wednesday after the top bid of EUR 490,000 fell short of the price sought by the dinosaur's owner.

Christie's said it would over the coming two weeks still entertain post-auction offers for the massive three-horned dinosaur specimen that was the star attraction at the palaeontology auction.

The skeleton of the triceratops, which roamed the Earth some 65 million years ago, was only the second dinosaur fossil of this size ever to go under the hammer.

Bids started at EUR 420,000 and quickly climbed to EUR 490,000, but when the bidding stopped there, the auctioneer declared no sale.

The private collector had set a reserve price of EUR 500,000 for the specimen that was found in North Dakota in 2004 and had been on display in his own private museum set up in his residence.

"We had lots of interest. Bidders had reserved phone lines but in the end they did not place a bid," said Christie's spokeswoman Capucine Milliot.

"The bidding did not reach the minimum amount sought by the seller," she said, adding that Christie's was now open to post-auction offers and that a buyer might yet be found in the coming weeks.

The 7.5-metre-long triceratops skeleton is 70 percent complete, a rarity in palaeontology, with only the tip of its horns made from resin and a few reconstituted bones in its hind leg and a rib, said Christie's expert Eric Mickeler.

The auction on Wednesday marks the first time that such a dinosaur specimen has gone up for public sale since a T-Rex called "Sue" was sold in New York in October 1997.

Sue - named after South Dakota resident Sue Hendrickson who stumbled on the fossil during a walk - is the most complete tyrannosaurus rex ever recovered and was bought by the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History for USD 8.3 million (EUR 5.2 million).

Some 150 other pieces - fossils, meteors and minerals, some dating back 450 million years - went under the hammer in the second such sale of natural history objects organised by Christie's.

A sabre-toothed tiger cranium was sold for EUR 72,000, while a mammoth skull fetched EUR 64,000.

Two giant fossilised shark teeth sold for EUR 7,800 and EUR 8,000 each, while a large gibeon meteorite from Namibia sparked a lively round of bidding before being sold off for EUR 65,000.

A tiranosaurus egg mineralised in agate got a top bid of EUR 13,000 while a pterosaurus-like fossil from the Jurassic period fetched EUR 60,000.

The auction has been criticised for encouraging private collectors to buy up artefacts of potential value to science.

"This is part of our worldwide heritage," said Christian de Muizon, from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

"You never know what research into a triceratops skeleton could turn up. If it's in the hands of a private collector, its fate becomes uncertain."

[AFP / Expatica]

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