The 'Ultimate Trophy' Is Expected to Fetch $15M

A stunningly preserved T. rex skull will be auctioned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2022 4:25 PM CST
Few T. Rex Skulls This Good Exist, Which Makes This Sale Huge
A Tyrannosaurus rex skull excavated from Harding County, South Dakota, in 2020-2021, is on display at Sotheby's in New York City on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. When auctioned in December, the auction house expects the dinosaur skull to sell for $15 million to $20 million.   (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

A stunning Tyrannosaurus rex skull unearthed in South Dakota is expected to sell for $15 million or more at auction in New York next month, say officials with Sotheby's. The 200-pound skull fossil, nicknamed Maximus, is being sold Dec. 9 by an owner who wishes to remain anonymous, the auction house said. Most of the rest of this T. rex's remains were destroyed by erosion, but Sotheby's consultant Henry Galiano trumpeted the "extraordinary discovery" in a statement, per Artnet: "Unearthed in one of the most concentrated areas for T. rex remains, the skull retained much of its original shape and surface characteristics with even the smallest and most delicate bones intact, with an extremely high degree of scientific integrity."

The skull was excavated in 2020 and 2021 in Harding County, South Dakota, where other T. rex skeletons like Sue and Stan were found, according to Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby's head of science and popular culture. LiveScience notes Sue sold for $8.36 million in 1997, while Stan went for $31.8 million in 2020. This 6.5-foot fossil is about 76 million years old and still has most of the external skull bones and numerous teeth. Artnet cites Sotheby's as saying fewer than a dozen skulls of this quality exist in museum collections, and none of them have ever come up for auction.

Two large puncture holes in the skull are thought to be evidence of a big fight, probably with another T. rex. "We don’t know that this is what caused the death of this animal, but we can tell that it did have a major battle during its lifetime," Hatton said. Marks on the skull are interesting to study "because they give us an idea about what life was like during the Cretaceous period," she added. This specimen may not be headed to a research institution, though. "It's the ultimate trophy," Hatton said. "To place in one’s home.” (Read more T. rex stories.)

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