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October 21, 2017

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T. rex fossil from Venetian auction sold, headed for museum


Courtesy of Bonhams & Butterfields

The T. rex known as Samson — one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens in existence — measures approximately 40 feet in length and 15 feet in height.

Click to enlarge photo

Samson is of special significant because the quality of her skull, which includes evidence of head injuries or disease.

“Samson,” the Tyrannosaurus rex that failed to sell at a Las Vegas auction last month, has a new owner and may be on public display soon, the auction house announced Wednesday.

Thomas Lindgren, the co-director of natural history auctions for Bonhams and Butterfields, wouldn’t say who bought the dinosaur or how much was paid, but said the private owner hopes to have the fossils on display in a museum by Christmas.

“They’re negotiating right now with a number of different museums that have interest,” Lindgren said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about her disappearing into a private collection, which certainly was a worry for a while.”

While he wouldn’t identify the price -– whether to reveal that information is left up to the new owner –- Lindgren said the successful offer was “somewhere in the $5 million area.” The bidder paid cash, Lindgren said.

Samson is considered the third most-complete T. rex ever found, with 170 bones, or about 56 percent of the body.

The dinosaur was put up for auction Oct. 3 at the Venetian resort along with almost 50 other items. The T. rex got a final bid of $3.6 million at the auction, short of the minimum price set by the owner.

Lindgren said multiple offers came in after the auction and a final offer was accepted at the end of October.

Prior to the auction, Samson and the other fossils for sale were on display for two weeks in the space formerly occupied by the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian.

“Just the response we had from our own preview of nearly 15,000 visitors coming to see her in a short period of time really has the museums chomping at the bit for the opportunity to exhibit her in their own space,” Lindgren said.

Bonhams and Butterfields business development director Martin Gammon estimated that about half of the visitors were local residents, including many school children who came at the request of their science teachers.

“The visual impact of Samson is stunning,” Lindgren said. “It’s probably once in 100 years the opportunity will come for selling a dinosaur of that distinction.”

Samson was discovered in South Dakota in 1987. It has been estimated the dinosaur was about 40 feet long and could have looked into a second-story window. It weighed about 7 1/2 tons.

In addition to being one of the most complete T. rex specimens found, Samson is of special significance because of the quality of her skull, which includes evidence of head injuries or disease.

Some scientists also believe Samson might be part of a species that is a subset of the Tyrannosaurus.

If that is the case, Samson might become the name bearer for the new species, according to information distributed by the auction house from Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.

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