A private collector has walked away with the world’s largest triceratops skeleton for around €6.7 million (AU$10.3 million). Affectionately known as “Big John,” the fossil is estimated at 66 million years old and is sure to make an exciting addition to its anonymous buyer’s living room.
60% of Big John’s bones have been found over the years, making it a fairly complete skeleton by geologist’s standards. Through a long and painstaking process, more than 200 of the dinosaur’s bones have been discovered. This imposing specimen has entered the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest known triceratops skeleton and it’s not hard to see why. The thing is nearly 23 feet long and stands 8 feet high at the hips. The herbivore’s defining horns measure 3.6 feet long and a foot wide, sitting on a skull that itself is 8.6 feet long and 6.6 feet wide.
Despite its incredible age, geologists have been able to uncover a surprising amount of information about the actual life Big John led back in the Mesozoic era. The Drouot auction house that held the sale has revealed the existence of a laceration around Big John’s collar, a detail that indicates combat with another dinosaur occurred and left him wounded. We even know that the dinosaur lived in Laramidia – an island continent that stretched from Alaska to Mexico – and that it died in a floodplain, which is why he was found preserved in the mud.
Since its resounding arrival in Paris last September, this triceratops has garnered quite a lot of attention. Geologist Walter W. Stein Bill first unearthed Big John’s bones in May 2014 in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota and it has taken nearly a decade to bring the triceratops together. Originally the thing was estimated to reach anywhere between €1.2 million (AU$1.9 million) and €1.5 million (AU$2.3 million).
On Thursday 21 October 2021 at Hôtel Drouot auctioneer and president of Drouot Group Maître Alexandre Giquello offered the exceptional skeleton of the Big John triceratops to collectors present in the saleroom, over the telephones and online. After an intense bidding battle, the price of Big John ultimately reached €6.7 million (AU$10.3 million) including fees, won by an American buyer. As Giquello said,
“It’s a record for Europe. The overall quality of Big John really deserved this price.”
With that, Big John will make the long-awaited return to his original land. While it does look considerably different since its days as “Laramidia,” I suppose the same can be said of John.