Money Matters - Simplified

A towering Tyrannosaurus skeleton set to be auctioned

A nearly complete skeleton of a colossal Tyrannosaurus bataar is set to go on auction on May 20. The skeleton measures some 8 feet tall and 24 feet long.

“This is the first time a Tyrannosaurus that is fully prepared and mounted is being sold at auction, since "Sue," a Tyrannosaurus Rex, sold for $8.3 million in 1997,” said David Herskowitz, director of natural history at Heritage Auctions. “It takes about two years and costs a couple hundred thousand dollars to prepare and mount it,” he further added.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar was unearthed in the Gobi Desert roughly eight years ago and has an estimated value of $950,000. Also called Tarbosaurus bataar, this species is an Asian relative to the North American T.Rex.

Tarbosaurus dinosaur, flourished in Asia about 70 million years ago, at the end of the Late Cretaceous Period. Tarbosaurus was a large bipedal predator, weighing more than a ton and equipped with dozens of large, sharp teeth. It had a unique locking mechanism in its lower jaw and the smallest forelimbs relative to body size of all tyrannosaurids, renowned for their disproportionately tiny, two-fingered forelimbs. Tarbosaurus lived in a humid floodplain criss-crossed by river channels. In this environment, it was an apex predator at the top of the food chain, probably preying on other large dinosaurs

This is not the first time that fossils have been excavated from Gobi Desert. It has been the source of many important fossil finds, including the first dinosaur eggs. It is a large desert region in Asia, covering parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The Gobi is most notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire, and as the location of several important cities along the Silk Road.

While the specimen's skull is 80 percent complete, the body is about 75 percent complete, Herskowitz said, adding that it is "an impeccably preserved specimen of the sort that is almost never seen on the open market."

The auction is scheduled to include other fossils and minerals, including a T. bataar tooth, an akylosaur skull from the dinosaur Saichania chulsanensis, and a skeleton from a troodontid — a group of dinosaurs whose anatomy suggests they were closely related to birds.

According to Heritage Auctions, the skeleton is a "museum-quality specimen of one of the most emblematic dinosaurs ever to have stalked this earth".

The catalogue description says: "This is an incredible, complete skeleton, painstakingly excavated and prepared, and mounted in a dramatic, forward-leaning running pose. The quality of preservation is superb, with wonderful bone texture and delightfully mottled greyish bone colour. In striking contrast are those deadly teeth, long and frightfully robust, in a warm woody brown colour, the fearsome, bristling mouth and monstrous jaws leaving one in no doubt as to how the creature came to rule its food chain."

The rarity of the material also makes it desirable to several natural-history museums opening in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Herskowitz said. “Five years from now, the demand for dinosaurs is going to be huge,” he said. “They aren’t making them anymore.”