First ancient Gorgosaurus skeleton auctioned nets US$6m in New York

On 28 July, a Gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton realised US$6 million dollars at the Natural History Sale at Sotheby's New York. The auction's most expensive lot, it was also the first specimen of its kind available for private ownership and one of only 20 fossils known to exist. The anonymous buyer will have the unique opportunity to bestow a nickname on the dinosaur.

Ancestor of the more famous Tyrannosaurus Rex (T-Rex), the Gorgosaurus species lived during the late Cretaceous period around 77 million years ago. Although smaller in size, the latter was also a bipedal, meat-eating super predator.

Erecting the Gorgosaurus' bones piece by piece, Sotheby's brought the dinosaur to life

Gorgosaurus Skeleton

Late Cretaceous period (approx. 77 million years ago)
Height: 3 metres | Length: 6.7 metres

  • Excavated in 2018 on private land, Judith River, Choteau County, Montana

Estimate: US$5,000,000 – 8,000,000
Hammer Price: US$5,000,000
Sold: US$6,069,500

The auctioneer, Simon Shaw, started the bidding at US$4 million dollars. After five bids, the hammer was dropped at US$5 million dollars. In the end, it garnered US$$6 million dollars with buyer’s premium.

Meaning fierce lizard in Greek, this dinosaur had sharp teeth and a pair of two-finger forelimbs. Its fossil remains were found in the Canadian province of Alberta and in the American state of Montana. Despite its smaller size, palaeontologists believe that the Gorgosaurus’ movements were faster and more ferocious than the T-Rex. Adults of the former's kind weighed around two tonnes, while the latter weighed approximately eight tonnes.

In this current sale, the dinosaur's skeleton was found in the Judith River Formation in Montana, United States in 2018. The entire skeleton measures three metres tall and nearly seven metres long.

How a Gorgosaurus would have looked like

All other known Gorgosaurus skeletons are housed in museums – such as the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta and Natural History Museum, London. This time, however, is the first time this type of dinosaur is auctioned.

In fact, the north-western part of the American continent was originally a subtropical island called Laramidia during the Cretaceous period. In modern-day terms, this area stretched from Alaska to Mexico. During the past 100 years, dinosaur bone fossils were found many times throughout this region.

Gorgosaurus skeleton at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta

Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, Sue, fetched a record-breaking US$8.3 dollars in 1997, and is now housed at Field Museum, Chicago

This is Sotheby’s second sale of a fossilised dinosaur skeleton, where the first can be traced back to 1997. The international auction house sold Sue – one of the biggest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex specimens in history. In the end, it amassed US$8.3 million dollars and broke a record for the most valuable fossil sold at auction. It is now housed in the Field Museum, Chicago.

During the last few years, complete dinosaur fossils were auctioned and realised prices above their estimates.

In 2020, a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil named Stan was hammered at Christie's New York. Estimated between US$6 and 8 million dollars, it garnered US$31.8 million – more than five times its low estimate and set an auction record for any dinosaur skeleton or fossil. Almost twice longer than the Gorgosaurus, it can be understood as to why it realised such an astronomical price.

Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, StanChristie's New York, 2020Sold: US$31,847,500

According to Western media, Stan was shipped to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism later confirmed that the T-Rex fossil will be displayed at the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, which is set to open in 2025.

In May 2022, a Deinonychus skeleton realised US$12.4 million dollars at Christie's New York – far exceeding its estimate of US$4 to 6 million dollars.

Leading up to the auction on 28 July, visitors can check out the dinosaur's skeleton from 21 to 27 July at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries in New York.

Deinonychus fossilChristie's New York, 2022Sold: US$12,412,500

Auction Details:

Auction House: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Natural History
Sale Date: 28 July 2022
Number of lots: 74
Sold: 58
Unsold: 16
Sale Rate: 78.3%
Sale Total: US$7,634,168