The $15-20 million auction of a T-Rex skeleton in Hong Kong by Christie’s has been canceled over concerns about how many bones in it were replicas.
The T-Rex, which was nicknamed “Shen”, was scheduled to go on the auction block in Christie’s Hong Kong on November 30. It was expected to fetch anywhere between $15 and $20 million. However, the sale went into muddy waters when Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, a fossil company that has handled the specimens for the auction house, raised a few questions.
Black Hill was involved in another high-profile T-Rex skeleton auction at Christie’s last year – the dinosaur named “Stan” which was sold for $31.8 million. As part of the agreement, Black Hill retained the intellectual rights to the dinosaur, including the rights to keep and sell its painted polyurethane casts (which could be sold for $120,000 to the likes of the Smithsonian). The issue became complicated when the researchers at Black Hill noticed some uncanny similarities between the skulls of Stan and Shen, including signs which were completely individualistic. This first caused the alarm that some of the bones of Shen’s skeleton might have been created using the casts for Stan.
“They’re using Stan to sell a dinosaur that’s not Stan,” said Peter Larson (President, Black Hills), “It’s very misleading.” Larson also pointed out that Shen was being sold with its complete intellectual rights – which means that its buyer would be allowed to create and sell even more replicas while passing them off as genuine fossils. It must be noted that adding replica bones in fossil skeletons is not a new or even wrong practice; it is done frequently to replace missing bones and provide structure to the skeleton. However, after failing to assert just how many of those bones were replicas, Christie’s was forced to cancel the auction.