Monday, April 23, 2012

Heft and Dreadful Beauty -- $1 Million Dinosaur Goes On Sale

"This beautiful Tyrannosaurus skeleton is one of the most complete, most spectacular specimens that we've ever seen," said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History at Heritage Auctions.


NEW YORK, NY.- 4-21-12

       One of the great dinosaurs of the Cretaceous era, an eight-foot tall, 24-foot long, 75% complete Tyrannosaurus bataar — the slightly smaller Asian counterpart to the legendary North American T-Rex — will be the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions May 20 Natural History Signature auction, taking place at Center 548 (548 W. 22nd Street, between 10th Ave. and West Street), in New York. The stupendous, impeccably preserved museum-quality specimen is expected to bring $950,000+.

 "This beautiful Tyrannosaurus skeleton is one of the most complete, most spectacular specimens that we've ever seen," said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History at Heritage Auctions. "These dinos, distant cousins of the T-Rex, were recently reclassified as Tyrannosaurids. They're incredibly rare to come across in any condition, let alone one as pristine as this." 

Detail of assembled Tyrannosaurus bataar.

    The Tyrannosaurus bataar roamed what is now Central Asia in the Cretaceous period, around 80 million years ago. The dino was discovered within the past decade and has been in storage in England, still in its field jackets, for the last 2-1/2 years.

  "Dinosaurs of this size and scarcity almost never come to market fully prepared and fully mounted like this, making it a singular opportunity for the right collector or institution," said Herskowitz. "Consider this: Sue, the famous T-Rex that' Sotheby's sold back in 1997, was neither prepped nor mounted when she came across the auction block, ultimately realizing a price of more than $8 million." 

Illustration of Tarbosaurus bataar (aka Tyrannosaurus bataar) confronting Therizinosaurus cheloniformis. (Copyright by Greg Paul.)  “Tarbosaurus” means “alarming lizard.”

   In complement to the full-sized Tyrannosaurus, Heritage will also offer a fantastic Tyrannosaurus bataar tooth with and erupting crown, arguably the finest Tyrannosaurus bataar tooth known and certainly one of the largest, measuring 10-1/2 inches long with 3-3/4 inches of enamel on both crowns, estimated at $18,000+.

    The Tyrannosaurus bataar is not the only spectacular dino specimen offered in the auction, as evidenced by the presence of a truly fantastical ankylosaurid skull from a Cretaceous era Saichania chulsanensis, literally meaning "Beautiful one," estimated at $60,000+. 

  An Ankylosaurid skull from a Tarchia (meaning “brainy one.”) When these skulls were first unearthed, men believed them to be the remains of dragons.

   "Broader than it is long, with two sets of distinctive horn-like protrusions at the rear, it's no wonder dinosaurs like these were thought to be dragon skulls when they were discovered in ancient times," said Herskowitz. "They could grow to about 23-feet in length, roughly six feet high and around 2 tons. Standing next to this thing you can really get a sense of not just its heft, but also its dreadful beauty."

    Other dinosaur highlights of the auction, which will also be on display in New York in May, include a very fine Cretaceous-era Troodontidae, or "Bird-Dinosaur" skeleton, 28 inches in length and 17-1/2 inches high, estimated at $45,000+, a superb "Duck-Billed" dinosaur skull from an Edmontosaurus annectens out of the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, an amazing 75-80% original and 47 inches long overall (estimate: $35,000+), a superlative American Mosasaur skull (Tylosaurus kansasensis) — a family of serpentine marine reptiles, apex predators and the scourge of the many and varied ocean-dwelling creatures with which they shared the ancient waters from the Smoky Hill Chalk, Niobrara Formation in Western Kansas, USA, estimated at $30,000+. 

Artist’s rendering of baby Edmontosaurus annectens – the Duck-Billed dinosaurs.


Fascinating, full of heft and dreadful beauty of course, but I’ve always thought that offering corporeal or skeletal remains for publicized commercial sale, even for “scientific purposes,” is creepy and dreadful (without the beauty).  It reminds me of the bad feelings I've had viewing anatomical religious relics, such as St. Teresa's mummified finger, which I saw in Avilà one hot July day a long time ago.

Human nature leaves a lot to be desired.  Frightened as I am of lizards (especially,  I imagine “alarming lizards” and “brainy ones”), I wonder whether I would be more fearful living among them than I  am today surrounded by  earth’s current tenders.  Seeing "The Cabin In The Woods" yesterday reinforced that feeling and reminded me throughout of that  grim, funny zeitgeist line in Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop": "I'd buy That for a dollar."  Tried to extinguish the feeling today by seeing “21 Jump Street” again.  It’s really funny and utterly light.   I needed that after reading This.



  1. It is creepy and worse. I have similar feelings about gene patents.

  2. I feel the same way about gene patents. I don't know whether you've ever seen the original Robocop, but you would probably enjoy it. It's witty, exciting and very touching and reminds you that there are some filmmakers making humanistic art, as opposed to sort of posing in that direction. And The Cabin In The Woods is a lot of fun. Curtis

  3. Yes, I agree, and I also feel sad that so many problems are hitting us now and all we do is break into teams. Two of my cousins are former R senators though they would be neither D or R today. They tell me the parties used to work together. I feel so strongly that we are making a sport out of things, and we are all losing. So much hatred and anger and disrespect.
    It's a strange thing but having grown up on a farm, I think of people in the same way sometimes as I think of other animals.
    I think how . . . well, we need to be tamed, as the fox said in The Little Prince.
    It's strange that people call me an idealist.
    And I kind of like lizards.

  4. Living with the number of animals we do across four species, I feel I live on a farm and I regard us all as part of life's rich pageant. It would be kind of funny to try to characterize my cats, dogs, birds and fish politically. You're absolutely correct about the hatred, anger and disrespect and I see very few politicians, unfortunately, that I have any regard for these days. It reminds me of that old BBC series that was shown on the Discovery channel: Killing For A Living. I tend to think that these days things have devolved into simply being an ultra-high stakes competition for graft and very little else. One criticism that was leveled at Pres. Clinton's initial Cabinet (the first Cabinet group that was publicized as "looking like you do" to the American population) was that they might look like you do, but they sure don't live like you do. Of course, this criticism applies to both parties and probably always will. Curtis