NEW YORK — In a showroom on the west side of Manhattan, minerals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, tufts of mammoth hair, pieces of the moon, not to mention a nearly complete Tyrannosaur skeleton, are being unpacked and arranged.
On Sunday (May 20), Heritage Auctions plans to auction these items off, but for the three days before, they are on public display here.
The headliner is a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar, fully prepared and mounted. This animal, whose remains measure 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall and 24 feet (7.3 meters) long, was an Asian relative to the infamous North American Tyrannosaurus rex. The few pieces missing have been replaced with casts. [Up For Auction: A Natural History Gallery]
"The coolest thing about dinosaurs are the claws and the teeth," said David Herskowitz, director of Natural History at Heritage Auctions. "Here you have like 80 percent of the claws are real, and 75 percent of the teeth are real."
The starting bid is set at $850,000, but Herskowitz estimates the value of this dinosaur at $1.4 million to $1.8 million. The sale was announced about four months ago, which isn't much time to raise money, he said, but added that the specimen is a good investment.
If you had the money, would you buy a tyrannosaur skeleton?
"Rarely [are] there more than two or three dinosaurs on the market at any given time because it takes two years and a couple $100,000 to prep and mount these things. … even just a 50 percent specimen," he said.
The last nearly complete tyrannosaurus to go up for auction, a T. rex named Sue after the fossil hunter who found it, fetched $8.36 million in 1997 and now resides in Chicago's Field Museum. The museum bought Sue with help from Disney, McDonald's and private donors, according to the museum's website.
"Museums especially in this country really don't have the money to spend on specimens, so they rely on philanthropists," Herskowitz said. "So we are hoping that a philanthropist or a museum trustee would be able to put up the money and purchase this, and then donate it to a museum." He added that there are also "a lot of private collectors that would buy such a specimen. If you think about it, every major natural history museum in America was originally a private collection."
Other dinosaur fossils include a duck-billed dinosaur skull and a strange-looking ankylosaurid skull. A table made with a slab of stone containing a fossil fish, a cast of one of the few existing dodo skeletons and an elephant-bird egg are among the many other relics of living things being sold.
The proverbial tyrannosaurus of the minerals is a nugget of gold in quartz weighing more than 70 ounces (2 kilograms), discovered in 1989 in Arizona by a man who dubbed it "Fred."
The meteorites include a small dark chuck of rock that originated on Mars and pieces of the moon.
Everything going up for auction on Sunday (May 20) is on display, except for the taxidermy.
The public can view these items at Center 548 (548 W. 22nd Street, between 10th Ave. and West Street, 4th floor) in New York City from Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.