Chicago's T. Rex Sue is only the biggest trophy in a
popular collecting category
Chicago has her share of celebrities, from Michael Jordan to Oprah. But there's a new star in town who's outshining both of them.
Her name is Sue and she's 41 feet long.
Sue is the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex
ever discovered — and she'll be unveiled at Chicago's Field Museum on May 17, 2000.
Sue's skull: reconstructed
for dramatic effect.
The unveiling of Sue, like anything dinosaur-related these days, is
getting a lot of attention. So much attention in fact, that the Field
Museum expects its largest crowds ever.
Not surprisingly, this fossil fever has spilled over into the world of collecting.
To find out why fossils have suddenly become sought-after collectibles,
here are some tips from fossil expert, Eric Kendrew who runs The Fossil Store in Valrico, Florida.
Mr. Kendrew attributes the growth in fossil collecting to the popularity
of dinosaur movies such as Jurassic
Park. In addition, he says
there have been plenty of new discoveries in recent years, meaning more public awareness of fossils.
However, its popularity is also a drawback, says Mr. Kendrew. He explains
that many of our national parks were once fertile ground for fossils —
but they've been picked clean by aggressive treasure hunters. In fact, the
federal government has had to step in to protect the remaining fossil sites from being raided.
That's made fossils more scarce — and sent prices skyrocketing, says Mr.
As a wholesale buyer, he may pay $1,800 for a fairly common artifact, such
as a leg bone of a hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur whose remains are
usually found in Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas.
Put that leg bone on the auction market, though, and it could fetch up to $5,000, he says.
So if the leg bone of a hadrosaur brings $5,000, what does an entire T.
Rex go for? Well, at a Sotheby's auction in 1997, the Field Museum paid $8.4 million for Sue's entire skeleton.
But if Sue were to go back on the market today, it might sell for even more, says Mr.
"It's almost as rare as the Hope diamond. There's no way to put a price on something like that."
And yet, Mr. Kendrew wishes fossil prices were less emphasized. "A
big problem is that people are only interested in the money rather than education and research."
He hopes that the Field Museum's exhibit will help educate the amateur
fossil collectors out there, and help protect future sites, allowing
scientists to study these ancient artifacts.
After all, it's their hard work that's now giving us an incredibly up-close glimpse of history's most famous predator.