Christie’s auction of fossilized remains drew bidders from some of the world’s most prominent museums and funders, including the Hall Foundation of China, which spent $6.8 million on Tyrannosaurus Sue, the largest Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever recovered.
Seldom does an auction bring such a dazzling array of donors. But there were also those who kept an eye on the auction—like Simon Fraser University in Canada, which picked up a few fragments in the South Pacific. They feared they would miss out on being the first institution in the world to acquire fossilized remains from a Tyrannosaurus called Tyrannosaurus Rex 3, discovered in 1983.
Just for those that remained anonymous, the proceeds are estimated at $31.8 million, or roughly the entire budget of Canada’s National Science & Technology Council (an amalgamation of the 21 provinces and territories).
Kerry Hoye, Christie’s head of African and Asian property, was pretty sure the fossil had a sure win in the hands of billionaires like Henry Kravis. But he said the auctioneers were also trying to “make sure there was a global interest in a dinosaur.” And so the buyer was the United Kingdom’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which picked up a 100-million-year-old version of Gorgosaurus that had already been threatened by erosion.
“I did not have a doubt for the next 25 minutes,” Hoye said. “The bids flowed. Everyone on the auction floor knew we had something special in the room.”