The Global Recession is Affecting Auction Prices of Fossils

One consequence of the global economic downturn is that fossils of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals are failing to reach their reserve prices at auction.  In the past, wealthy private collectors were able to outbid many museums and other organisations at specialised auctions where rare dinosaur fossils and other exhibits went under the hammer.

Now it looks like even the very wealthy are feeling the pinch.  A rare complete skeleton of a 150-million-year-old dinosaur languished on an auction block yesterday, failing to sell despite interest from two museums, the auctioneering company stated.  Neither museum could meet the reserve price, an estimated $300,000 dollars for the 3 metre long fossil of the Jurassic Ornithopod Dryosaurus.

Dryosaurus was a common and widespread plant-eating dinosaur of the late Jurassic, it was named by the famous American scientist Othniel Charles Marsh in 1894.  This particular specimen was discovered at a private quarry in Wyoming in 1993 and put up for sale by a company called Western Palaeontological Laboratories Inc, in an auction of fossils and other rare palaeontological specimens.

Speaking on behalf of the auctioneers, Josh Chait, Operations Director commented that no one could meet the asking price for this particular lot, stating that this was probably due to “a lack of funding, more than the price”.

The auctioneers are trying to negotiate the sale of this mounted skeleton to a museum, they are prepared to fore-go their commission if the fossil is sold to a museum.  Perhaps the problem is that a Dryosaurus is likely to be less of a draw than a mounted skeleton of a fierce meat-eating dinosaur such as an Allosaurus.

A number of other lots were sold during the auction including a teenage Mammoth skeleton which fetched $55,000 and a nearly complete Mosasaur skeleton that went for $67,000, but neither of these items fetched their expected price.  Each of these lots was expected to be sold for more than $100,000.  A number of the exhibits were purchased by unidentified private collectors.  Let us hope that these specimens are made available to the public for viewing and to scientists for further study, although we suspect that at Everything Dinosaur, this is the last we shall hear of these items as more and more precious fossils end up in the hands of wealthy private collectors.

Commenting on the relatively low prices for some of the lots (in comparison to previous auctions), Josh Chait stated that:

“I can only guess that the economy’s having an effect”.

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