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T. Rex Fossil Up For Auction

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T. Rex Fossil Up For Auction


T. Rex Fossil Up For Auction

T. Rex Fossil Up For Auction

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Forget antiques and jewelry ... one auction house is selling off a female Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. In life, "Samson" was tall enough to peer into a second-story window. Now the South Dakota native is expected to fetch millions of dollars at natural history auction in Las Vegas. Thomas Lindgren of Bonhams and Butterfields Auctioneers tells Guy Raz about the upcoming sale.

GUY RAZ, host:

It might be too early to shop for Christmas gifts, but here's an idea.

Unidentified Woman: For sale, one Tyrannosaurus rex, female, goes by Samson. In life, she was 40 feet long and could have peered into a second story window if there had been windows 66 million years ago.

RAZ: So, help me out here. Thomas Lindgren, how much do you think Samson's going to fetch on the auction block?

Mr. THOMAS LINDGREN (Co-Director of Natural History, Bonhams and Butterfields Auctioneers): Well, with the excitement that's currently being generated, I would hope that it brings somewhere between six and eight million dollars.

RAZ: That's Thomas Lindgren. He is the co-director of Natural History for Bonhams and Butterfields Auctioneers. Two weeks from today, the company plans to auction off one of the largest T. rex specimen ever discovered at its first Natural History auction in Las Vegas.

So Mr. Lindgren, where did you guys get this dinosaur?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, the current owner gave me a call a few months ago and he told me he had a Tyrannosaurus rex he'd like to sell, and with tongue-in-cheek, I said, okay, I'd certainly be interested in selling this for you. Tell me a little bit more about it.

RAZ: How was Samson discovered?

Mr. LINDGREN: The rancher in South Dakota had a son that was quite interested in just walking the acreage that they had, and in the process of this, he found parts of the dinosaur weathering out in the ground that he eventually took to the South Dakota School of Mines. They identified it as a Tyrannosaurus rex, yet it was just some surface material, they never really looked for anything beyond that.

And then in 1992, there were a couple of commercial fossil collectors that had heard about it, walked into a bar in Harding County, South Dakota, and stood up and made a gesture of they were willing to pay a large quantity of money to anyone that could take them to the site of the Tyrannosaurus rex. The next thing you know, they had an agreement with the rancher, and Samson was discovered completely in 1992.

RAZ: So this was all found on a private ranch in South Dakota?

Mr. LINDGREN: Harding County, South Dakota, just outside of Buffalo. Harding County is quite often referred to as the T. rex capital of the world.

RAZ: Wow. Who owns the dinosaur?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, currently it's owned by a private client that I'm not available to mention his name, but it's an American here in the United States.

RAZ: So Mr. Lindgren, why are discoveries like these, you know, such obvious historic importance, why are they allowed to be sold privately in the U.S.?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, if the dinosaur is found on private land, it's owned by the landowner himself.

RAZ: Has anything like this ever gone on sale at auction?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, in 1997, the very famous Tyrannosaurus rex, Sue…

RAZ: Oh, yes.

Mr. LINDGREN: …that is now housed in the Field Museum was sold at Sotheby's.

RAZ: That's Chicago's Field Museum.

Mr. LINDGREN: Yes, correct.

RAZ: And how much was it sold for?

Mr. LINDGREN: The actual hammer price with the buyer's premium was $8.36 million.

RAZ: Mr. Lindgren, I understand that you yourself are a fossil hunter. What do you hope will happen with Samson?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, my ultimate goal is to find a scientific institution that has the funds to acquire Samson and keep her here in North America. The Tyrannosaurus rex is indigenous only to North America, found nowhere else on the planet. It would be, I think, a shame to have her actually be purchased by a foreign entity. But because this is an auction, we'll have to see where she ends up.

RAZ: Mr. Lindgren, what does it feel like, you know, for you to stand under this dinosaur?

Mr. LINDGREN: Well, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. It's an opportunity that only in my dreams could I even expect to be part of. You know, well, this transcends just the scientific. It's a piece of almost beautiful art that will stand forever, hopefully, in a museum in this country.

RAZ: Thomas Lindgren is the co-director of Natural History for Bonhams and Butterfields Auctioneers. His company is selling Samson the T. rex on October 3rd in Las Vegas.

Mr. Lindgren, thanks so much.

Mr. LINDGREN: It's been a great pleasure. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

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