Buying a personal dinosaur has never been easier. In the past few years, fossils have entered two new commercial arenas - the internet and the art auction.
can order fossils from several home pages including
"Artifacts-R-Us: Your One-Stop Shop For Rare Artifacts." A complete
Triceratops skeleton is available for $1 million; four
Hypacrosaurus Stebbengeri skeletons mounted together go for $2
million, and bargain shoppers can pick up a 19-egg Sauropod nest
The 200-year-old Phillips Auction
House in New York City sells fossils as if they were rare paintings
or antiques. According to Phillips staffer Alison Miller, the
business took a gamble last June on the dinosaur fad and held the
nation's first natural history auction. It was such a success they
immediately planned two more.
"People respond to
the concept of owning a piece of earth's crust, owning items that
you would find in a natural history museum, items that never before
could be purchased," says Miller.
The focus of
the Phillips Natural History Auction is aesthetics. Pieces must be
uncommon and mounted like artwork. Miller says this filters out the
mainstream dealers and leaves only museum-quality pieces. At the
Tucson fossil show, dealers bantered about which of their finds
might make it to Phillips.
Although the clientele
is largely private collectors, commercial dealers claim the show is
a form of education. "Phillips is one of the most remarkable ways
to inform the populace," says a dealer at the upscale New York City
fossil shop, Maxilla and Mandible, Ltd. "Extinction is a powerful
thing. They see it face to face."
speak disparagingly of the private auction, and not every
commercial dealer likes it. British dealer Terry Manning was flat
broke when he came to Tucson. But he sold a dinosaur egg to a
Wyoming museum rather than put it on the auction block at Phillips
and possibly make more money.
"That would be
obscene," says Manning. "I don't even think art should be sold to