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September 16, 2014

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‘Samson’ fossil unsold, but Vegas auction sets records

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Kyle B. Hansen

The “Samson” dinosaur skeleton is on display Saturday in Las Vegas during an auction at the Venetian.

“Samson,” the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex that has been on display at the Venetian for the last two weeks, wasn’t sold at Saturday’s auction, as was planned.

The auction still sold more than $1.7 million worth of dinosaur fossils and set world records. And Samson could have a new owner soon.

The tyrannosaurus got a final high bid of $3.6 million at the auction, short of the minimum price set by its owner.

Thomas Lindgren, the co-director of natural history auctions for Bonhams and Butterfields, said the company received other offers for the dinosaur before the event was over.

He said he expects the dinosaur to be sold within the next two weeks.

Other items sold at the auction included an almost complete duck-billed dinosaur skeleton, which sold for $458,000, a world auction record for that type of item.

All together, almost 50 items were sold at the auction after being on display in the space formerly occupied by the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian.

The auction was part of a new partnership for the hotel-casino and the auction house.

More than 15,000 people came to see the fossils, said Bonhams and Butterfields business development director Martin Gammon.

He estimated that about half of those were local residents, including many school children who came at the request of their science teachers.

Samson is the third most complete tyrannosaurus skeleton ever found and her head is considered one of the best preserved.

“They’ll never be another one like that,” said fossil collector Bill Barker while pointing to the dinosaur’s massive head after the auction.

The only comparable skeleton on display in the United States is in Chicago, Barker said.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the response and the number of people coming in,” Lindgren said.

He said he put the auction together in about three months -- half the time usually required -- because there was so much interest in the T-Rex.

He said the museum space at the Venetian was the perfect venue to show the fossils.

“It would be wonderful if Las Vegas could have a permanent exhibit like this,” he said. “But at least I have been able to give them a taste of what it’s like.”

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