Inside the new dinosaurs wars

Fossils have become a hot new asset class — but while dino-hunters get rich, scientists are getting irate, says Tom Ward

The next smart investment may not be cryptocurrencies or supporting tech billionaires on their space adventures — but something far closer to home; far deeper in the earth. Instead of looking to the future and new technologies, a rich vein of wealth may be uncovered by turning to the past. Specifically, the Cretaceous period. It was a time when T Rex, that tyrannical lizard king, ruled the western part of North America. Some 85 million to 65 million years later, it is these same creatures that are making fossil hunters rich. Take ‘Stan’, a T Rex fossil that sold for $31.8 million at auction last October.

This boom in fossils is great news for the budding dino-hunter, but apparently not so great news for palaeontologists whom, National Geographic explained, are “furious” about the development (“The fossil was priceless to paleontologists, but experts fear it may be lost to research now that it belongs to an unknown bidder,” wrote Michael Greshko, reporting on Stan’s sale.)

‘Stan’ was unearthed over 30 years ago in South Dakota by an amateur palaeontologist named Stan Sacrison. Excavated in 1992 (and named after its discoverer) the fossil was housed at the private Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. That is, until Sacrison decided to sell his namesake, contacting London’s Christie’s to shift the bones in what would make history as the most expensive fossil auction of all time, beating a 1997 auction in which a complete T. Rex was sold for a paltry $8.36 million (or $13.5 million in today’s money).

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