Virtually Complete Stegosaurus Fossil Expected To Fetch Upwards Of $6 Million At Auction

Dinosaur collectors can bring real-life “Jurassic Park” into the comfort of their own home — if they have several million dollars lying around. This summer, Sotheby’s annual “Geek Week” sale series is set to make history with the inclusion of “Apex,” the most virtually complete Stegosaurus fossil ever to be offered at auction. Standing at an impressive 11 feet tall and stretching 20 feet long, this exceptionally well-preserved specimen is estimated to fetch between $4 and $6 million, solidifying its position as one of the most valuable dinosaur fossils in history.

The auction, scheduled for July 17, represents a significant milestone for Sotheby’s, as it marks the first time an auction house has been involved in bringing a dinosaur specimen to market from the day of its discovery. Through close collaboration with the owner, Sotheby’s has meticulously documented the entire process, from the fossil’s unearthing and excavation to its restoration, preparation, and mounting.

"Apex" — A Mounted Stegosaurus Skeleton
“Apex” — A Mounted Stegosaurus Skeleton. (credit: Sotheby’s)

“Apex marks an incredibly important milestone, as simply one of the best fossils of its kind ever unearthed,” says Cassandra Hatton, global head of science and popular culture at Sotheby’s. “Stegosaurus is one of the most universally recognizable dinosaur species, whose unmistakable silhouette has been a source of fascination and wonder for generations. Through the careful process of excavation, preparation, and installation, Apex sets a new standard for all future discoveries of this magnitude, and further reinforces the enduring appeal of Stegosaurus and its vaunted status in popular culture.”

Stegosaurus, the best-known member of the armored dinosaurs (Thyreophorans), is characterized by the distinctive shape and arrangement of dermal armor on its back, extending from the neck to the tail. Fossils of this intriguing group have been found in Jurassic-Cretaceous localities throughout Eurasia, North America, and Africa. In the Morrison Formation, where “Apex” was discovered, Stegosaurus species are classified into two genera: Stegosaurus and Hesperosaurus, primarily differentiated by the shape of their dorsal plates.

“Apex” was discovered in May 2022 in the Morrison Formation, located in Moffat County, Colorado, near the town of Dinosaur, by a respected commercial paleontologist on his own private land. Sotheby’s says this paleontologist has unearthed numerous dinosaur specimens within the United States, many of which are housed in institutions around the globe, with a significant number having been donated by him.

The excavation was completed in October 2023, and the dinosaur shows no signs of combat or predation-related injuries. However, evidence of arthritis indicates that it lived to an advanced age. The name “Apex” was chosen to underscore its prominence within the Stegosaurus family, reinforcing the high regard for Stegosaurus among dinosaurs. This Stegosaurus fossil is approximately 146-161 million years old.

To put “Apex” into perspective, a comparable fossil named “Sophie,” currently held in the collection of the National History Museum in London, is more than 30 percent smaller than “Apex,” which boasts an impressive femur length of 45 inches.

The buyer will receive a copy of the scan data of the dinosaur, along with a full license to use any 3D data in any manner they choose, including scans and molding. This ensures that primary information about the dinosaur remains with the specimen, promoting collaboration in future research and education.

Prior to the sale on July 17, “Apex” will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s galleries in New York, alongside other highlights from other sales scheduled during Geek Week, spanning Natural History and Space Exploration. The exhibition will be free and open to the public.

This isn’t the first dinosaur that Sotheby’s has auctioned off. In 1997, the auction house sold Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex for $8.36 million. In recent years, Sotheby’s sold the inaugural Gorgosaurus skeleton in July 2021 for $6.1 million and the first standalone Tyrannosaurus rex skull for $6.06 million in December 2022.

The most expensive dinosaur fossil belongs to Stan the T. rex, which sold for $31.8 million in 2020 by Christie’s.

Click here for more information on the “Apex” Stegosaurus auction.

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