Make no bones about it, the largest triceratops skeleton ever unearthed made a mammoth showing Thursday at a Paris auction, where it was sold for 6.65 million euros – about $7.74 million – to a US collector.
The final price for the 26-foot-long “Big John” reached 5.5 million euros before fees, according to Agence France-Presse. It had been expected to fetch 1.5 million euros.
“It’s a record for Europe,” said auctioneer Alexandre Giquello, who described exponential growth in the relatively new market of dinosaur fossils, Reuters reported. “We’re creating a market.”
The dino’s supersized skeleton, which was discovered in South Dakota in 2014, is 60 percent complete after specialists in Italy assembled its more than 200 pieces. Its skull alone is more than 8 feet long and 6.5 feet wide.
“Big John,” who was named after the owner of the land where his bones were unearthed, lived during the Upper Cretaceous period over 66 million years ago — the final era of dinosaurs — and died in a floodplain where he was well preserved in mud.
A horn injury suggested the beast got into at least one nasty prehistoric brawl.
The triceratops, which means “three-horned face,” is the latest dinosaur to be sold by Drouot, which says it handled an allosaurus and a diplodocus each worth 1.4 million euros in 2018.
The hefty price tag means that museums are largely excluded from the purchase.
“We can’t compete,” Francis Duranthon, director of the Toulouse Museum of Natural History, told AFP, adding that 1.5 million euros represented 20 to 25 years of his acquisitions budget.
Giquello told the outlet that there was a good chance “Big John” would still be seen by the public, saying that half of those who were interested in the skeleton had expressed their wishes to show it in a museum.
The US buyer has not been identified.