Peter Larson, who was crouched over a snow-covered quarry that doubled as a hunting ground for fossils, pointed to a battered four-inch slab that could be seen poking out from under the layer of snow. An ordinary rock to the inexperienced eye, but to Larson it was plain to see that it was a dinosaur bone.
A fossil researcher and dealer named Larson, who was 70 years old at the time.
The number of buried dinosaurs in Hulett is extremely likely to be more than the town’s present human population of 309, making it an ideal location for the current trend of seeking dinosaur bones. Since Sue, a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that Larson helped excavate, sold at auction for $8.4 million in 1997, ushering in a boom in the market for old bones, Larson has been digging here for more than 20 years. He started digging here not long after Sue’s sale. Sue was the fossil that kicked off the boom in the market for old bones. As a flood of amateur archaeologists headed towards fossil-rich hills, local landowners began to wonder whether they might cultivate a new crop: dinosaur bones. This was in response to the influx of amateur archaeologists.
Among them were Elaine and Leslie Waugh, who grew sheep on their Wyoming ranch not too far from the Devils Tower National Monument. However, they started to worry what they should do with all of the dinosaur fossils that they kept discovering in the ground on their land.
Leslie Waugh, who is now 93 years old, was quoted as saying, “We simply decided that we should do something with these bones.” They contacted Larson, whose company’s excavations here needed years of meticulous excavating and included a Camarasaurus, a Barosaurus, and a Brachiosaurus.
To the dismay of academic palaeontologists, the search for fossils has evolved into a multimillion-dollar industry. These palaeontologists are concerned that specimens of scientific importance are being auctioned off to the highest bidders, which is to their detriment.
Stan, an additional T. rex unearthed by Larson’s business, was sold by Christie’s at auction in 2020 for $31.8 million, breaking the previous record price for a T. rex, which had been set by Sue. This year, a Deinonychus sold for $12.4 million, a Gorgosaurus brought in $6.1 million, and Sotheby’s sold a single T. rex tooth for more than $100,000. The Velociraptors from the film “Jurassic Park” were based on the Deinonychus. It is anticipated that a T. rex skull will sell for between $15 million and $20 million the following month. Buyers include investors, Hollywood stars, leaders of the technology sector, and a crop of natural history museum facilities that are either brand new or in the process of emerging in China and the Middle East.
Christie’s had high hopes for another record-breaking dinosaur auction this month, anticipating that a T. rex skeleton known as Shen would sell for between $15 million and $25 million. After issues were raised by Larson and others regarding the specimen and the manner in which it was being promoted, the sale in Hong Kong was cancelled this week, only 10 days before it was set to take place.
When Larson, who these days appears to be engaged in most of the dinosaur-world tragedies, was looking at an image of Shen, he noticed that it appeared familiar: Its head looked a lot like Stan’s. Shen was a member of the dinosaur genus Shen. Larson said that the scars that were previously on Stan’s face were still visible and that the location of his teeth had not changed.
The intellectual property rights of Stan are being held by Larson’s organisation, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. The company is now selling polyurethane castings of the specimen for a price of $120,000 apiece. After receiving letters and phone calls from a lawyer from the Black Hills Institute raising the matter, Christie’s revised its online marketing materials to clarify that Shen had been augmented with copies of Stan’s bones. Shen was removed from the auction entirely by Christie’s on Sunday, with the explanation that it would “benefit from additional research.”