Largest Stegosaurus Fossil Auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York

The largest Stegosaurus fossil ever discovered is going up for auction next month for $6 million.

The specimen, called „Apex,” was excavated in 2023 in Colorado’s Morrison Formation, near Dinosaur City, according to Sotheby’s auction house.

According to the auction house, part of the armored dinosaur was first discovered on the nearby property of commercial paleontologist Jason Cooper. In total, it is 11 feet high and 20 feet long and includes 247 fossilized bones. The dinosaur is believed to be 146 million to 161 million years old.

Cassandra Hutton, Sotheby’s senior vice president and global head of science and popular culture, told ABC News she recalled getting a call from Cooper about the discovery.

„Oh my goodness we’ve got something incredible on our hands,” Hutton said of the discovery at the time.

Sotheby’s will auction the model on July 17 in New York with an estimate of $4 million to $6 million. Sotheby’s sold a 200-pound Tyrannosaurus rex head in 1997 for $8.3 million.

As for how Apex got its name, Sotheby’s says it was the largest and most complete Stegosaurus ever discovered.

For nearly a decade, Sophie, a Stegosaurus model, Located in the National History Museum in London, held the title of being the largest and most complete Stegosaurus ever discovered. According to Sotheby’s, the peak is 30% larger than the Sophie, based on a thigh length of 45 inches.

„Through the careful process of excavation, preparation and installation, 'Apex’ sets a new standard for all future discoveries of this scale, and further reinforces Stegosaurus’ enduring appeal and its proud position in popular culture,” Hutton said in a press release.

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But Sotheby’s sale next month could reignite a long-running debate about whether or not dinosaur fossils should be sold to private collectors.

Paul David Polley, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Indiana University, said auctions often focus on finding complete dinosaurs and studying the surrounding environment, giving an incomplete picture of the specimen.

„[An auction] „A good, careful scientific study can fertilize complete skeletons of dinosaurs,” said David Polley.

Additionally, in the hands of private collectors, fossils may not be available to the public, which prevents scientists from studying them.

“Because [the fossils] In a private collection, they cannot contribute to the diversity of what we know about the world,” said Canadian paleontologist Greg Funston.

Regardless, it is legal to sell fossils found on private property in other countries such as Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

David Polley says private landowners will grant access to whoever can pay the most, which is often not scientists. „People perceive fossils as having monetary value and scientists working for nonprofits don’t have the money to buy fossils,” he said.

Hutton says there are other issues to consider amid the debate over the private sale of fossils. „I think there’s more of a debate about whether dinosaurs should be considered property, and that’s a much bigger conversation,” Hutton said.

Spencer G. Lucas, an American paleontologist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, said commercial paleontology can preserve fossils for science and education.

„That is my hope [the fossils] available for scientific research,” he said.

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Prior to its July 17 sale, the Apex will be on display at Sotheby’s Galleries in New York, according to the auction house. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

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