T-Rex Auction Canceled After Claims It Reused Bones of Another Dinosaur

by Craig Garrett
(Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The auction for a T-Rex skeleton was canceled because of fears that some of the bones were procured illegally. The specimen could have been sold for up to $25 million. Christie’s auction house confirmed that the skeleton will not be up for sale at their upcoming Hong Kong auction. The seller decided to loan the skeleton to a museum instead, as stated by Christie’s.

According to the New York Times, a US fossil company stated that some of the skeleton appeared to be forged. They were similar to another T-rex skeleton called Stan. The Black Hills Institute is the owner of Stan’s intellectual property rights, which permits it to sell replicas. For example, a cast of Stan replica costs $120,000.

President Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute said that some aspects of Shen resemble Stan, after seeing pictures of it. He noted that the shape and size of the skull was similar to Stan’s, as well as unique holes in its jawbone area. Larson believes that Shen’s owner – who remains anonymous – had purchased a Stan replica and used the bones to finish the skeleton of Shen. “They’re using Stan to sell a dinosaur that’s not Stan,” Larson told the New York Times. “It’s very misleading.” Larson believes that Christie’s made the right decision in canceling the auction.

The T-rex skeleton originally hails from Montana

A lawyer for Larson stated that the auction house had not been clear to potential buyers that some of the bones in the skeleton were casts and not from Stan. After this, the online listing changed. “Replica bones that were added to original bones (referred to as STAN™ elements) were created by, and purchased from, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc.” 

Although it is now widely believed that none of Shen’s teeth are original, this cannot be confirmed as the listings have been removed from the website. Out of the 380 bones a T. rex typically contains, Christie’s stated that only 80 of Shen’s were original. The Field Museum in Chicago also commented on this discovery, stating that full dinosaur skeletons are hardly ever found – making this one of the largest discoveries in recent years.

Christie’s released a statement detailing the incident. “There is no T-rex skeleton extant that is entirely made up of original bones. We believe the original elements of Shen are authentic.” The 1.4-ton, 15ft by 40ft Shen was discovered in Montana. Experts think it’s a 67 million-year-old adult male. Had he gone up for sale, experts believe he would’ve sold between $15-$25 million. However, Stan went for $31.8 million in 2020. Selling dinosaur bones can be quite profitable. However, some people argue that they should remain with researchers and not in private collections.