Bored of paintings? Decorate your house using fossils instead
The world has moved on from decorating their houses with paintings. Now people want dinosaurs. At least that's how French auction house Binoche et Giquello is marketing the skeletons of an Allosaurus and a diplodocus. But then you would also need to have 450,000 euros (Rs. 3.60cr), and big enough living rooms, which many palaeontologists have dismissed as an expense for "the luxury world."
Earlier, it was the Leonardo DiCaprios and Nicolas Cages
"The fossil market is no longer just for scientists," said Iacopo Briano of Binoche et Giquello. "Dinosaurs have become cool, trendy- real objects of decoration." He mentioned Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage, apparently big fans of such prehistoric ornaments. It is noteworthy that Cage handed back the rare skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar he bought in 2007, after it emerged it had been smuggled.
MNCs also chipped in, often for charity
In 1997, McDonald's and Walt Disney were among donors contributing $8.36mn for Sue, considered the best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex, for Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. "Millions of people come to see it, it's incredible publicity for companies," said Eric Mickeler, a natural history expert. Palaeontologists acknowledge many fossils that're sold are of limited scientific interest, and can be brought through such acts of patronage.
But now, there is a new target audience for sellers
New buyers are now bidding against MNCs and ultra-rich individuals and redefining the "traditional" buyer base of dinosaur skeletons. The Chinese are one such enthusiastic group. "For the last 2-3 years, they have become interested in palaeontology and have been looking for big specimens of dinosaurs found on their soil, for their museums or even for individuals," Briano said, adding they recently sold one to a Venetian family.
So how is the price decided?
Carnivores often fetch more than herbivores because of their teeth, Mickeler said. "People like the teeth," he added. Other factors that can drive up price are if the skeleton shows traces of fights, or of an incurable illness. You will also need to shell out more for rarity, high percentage of verified bones, and an "impressive" skull. The market "isn't for everybody", Mickeler said.
Details of tomorrow's auction in Paris
The allosaurus that goes on sale tomorrow is 3.8m long and "small" by regular standards. At 12m from nose to tail, the diplodocus is bigger. But the allosaurus is expected to fetch up to 650,000 euros (Rs. 5.20cr), while the diplodocus can bring 450,000 to 500,000 euros (Rs. 3.60-4cr). Both go on auction tomorrow, along with 87 lots of natural artefacts.
Completely nonsensical prices, not for people like us: Palaeontologist
But palaeontologist Ronan Allain called them "completely nonsensical" prices. "It's the luxury world, it's not for people like us," he said. "We could decide to buy it pre-emptively, but that would mean shelling out more than a million."