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T. Rex Skeleton Open to Online Bids

January 17, 2000

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Bidders will need big bucks and tons of floor space to land the prize catch at an electronic auction that got under way today: a complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

Bidding for the 25-foot-tall, 40-foot-long skeleton starts at $5.8 million. The price includes shipping from the skeleton’s current home in a Kansas warehouse.

Discovered on a South Dakota cattle ranch in 1992, the 65 million-year-old skeleton is one of a handful of well-preserved T. rex specimens, said Laurie Cutts, a product manager for Lycos Auction, the Massachusetts Internet company overseeing the sale.

It’s not the first time owner Alan Detrich has tried to unload the T. rex over the Internet. He offered it on eBay in July, but the auction was canceled after several illegitimate bids by teen-age pranksters. The highest bid during that sale _ $8 million _ was a fake.

This time, Detrich has brought in Millionaire.com, a Web site linked to Lycos that will pre-qualify bidders by verifying their financial status. The auction was scheduled to last three weeks.

Two and a half hours after the auction opened today, no authenticated bid had been made, said Lycos spokesman Ed Harrison.

Detrich says he sees nothing wrong with auctioning off a piece of the Earth’s history.

After all, he said, he spent more than $250,000 of his own money unearthing the dinosaur. And he’ll give 10 percent of the proceeds to the owners of the cattle ranch where the rock-encased skeleton was found, he said.

``This auction is open to the world,″ said Detrich. ``If we don’t have the right to (sell the fossil), then we don’t live in America. ... If we didn’t go there and get him, he’d still be up there.″

Chuck Schaff, a curatorial associate at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, said such a fossil would be an ideal attendance-generator for a museum, but the cost would likely be prohibitive for most galleries.

``It’s not unethical to sell it, it’s just a shame it goes to the highest bidder,″ Schaff said. ``Some specimens do get away from scientists, but that’s life. ... It’s sad, though.″

In 1997, a T. rex was purchased at a traditional Sotheby’s auction for $8.36 million on behalf of the Field Museum in Chicago.

Detrich said he doesn’t mind if his T. rex becomes a corporate mascot or is sold to a private collector with no intention of publicly displaying it.

He said the U.S. government could buy the bones if it wanted, as evidenced by the vast sums spent on space exploration each year.

``If we’re willing to spend hundreds of millions going to Mars, let’s spend some money here on Earth ... If it makes them feel any better, I’m giving half to Uncle Sam,″ he said.

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EDITORS: The auction site is at http://www.auctions.lycos.com.