T. rex fossil sells for $32 million, the most expensive ever auctioned

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A 67-million-year-old T. rex specimen, named Stan, will be auctioned off by Christie’s on Oct. 6 and will be on display in the windows of Christie’s Rockefeller Center starting Wednesday.

Robert Frank | CNBC

A fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex, nicknamed Stan, sold at auction for $31.85 million, becoming the most expensive dinosaur fossil ever sold.

The 67-million-year-old specimen, one of the most famous T. rex fossils because of its good condition, crushed its original sale estimate of $6 million to $8 million.

The anonymous buyer at Tuesday’s auction conducted by Christie’s was a telephone bidder. The sale showed broad interest among rich collectors of dinosaur bones and reflected a strong market for rare trophy works despite the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Stan is one of only about 50 T. rex fossils ever discovered, with most displayed in museums. It has been on display for years at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota. It is one of the most complete T. rex fossils ever found, with 188 bones, its head in pristine condition and over 11-inch long teeth. It has often been used as the model for T. rex figurines and depictions.

A Tyrannosaurus rex (T-Rex) skeleton, named STAN is on display during a press preview at Christie’s Rockefeller Center on September 15, 2020 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

The fossil was found in 1987 by amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison, hence the fossil’s name, in the Hell Creek Formation, part of an area known as the Cretaceous Badlands. 

Initially, the bones were misidentified as a more common triceratops. But in 1992, paleontologists from the institute recognized it as a T. rex. It took more than 30,000 hours to carefully excavate, and it was later installed and displayed at the institute. 

Paleontologists say Stan would have weighed 7 to 8 tons at his peak and showed signs of a difficult and violent life. He suffered a broken neck, with two of his vertebrae bonding together and a third immobilized. He also had a puncture in his skull and ribs.



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