Jurassic Measures: Are Dinosaur Bones A Good Investment?

Jurassic Measures: Are Dinosaur Bones A Good Investment?

Dinosaur bones are increasingly popular but do they make a good investment or should they stay in a museum?

Jurassic Measures: Are Dinosaur Bones A Good Investment?
Moriah Costa

Published Sep 2, 2022Updated Sep 14, 2022

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As interest in alternative investing grew, some investors turned their eyes to collections that have long been under the tutelage of museums—dinosaur bones.

The surge in amateur paleontologists means that you can find fossils just about anywhere, from private homes to offices.

These fossil bones from millions of years ago are a subject of fascination to humans, inspiring almost every kid to learn about life before humans and watch Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. Maybe because we don’t know what dinosaurs looked like or because of their massive size, but fossilized bones have become a prized collection for many enthusiasts—and a possible investment asset for some.

Keep your arms and legs in at all times as we drive you through investing in dinosaur bones.

The rise of dinosaur bone investing

Dinosaur fossils have been collected for centuries and are held mainly by wealthy collectors and museums for their novelty and educational value. Credit for the first dinosaur bone discovery goes to English naturalist Robert Plot who, in 1677, discovered what he thought was a giant human skeleton. Dinosaur fossils were likely collected by naturalists well into the 19th century in curiosity cabinets as our understanding of natural history advanced.

Many dinosaur skeletons in museums are not bones but fossils of at least 10,000 years old. Bones and teeth are the most common specimens, but footprints and skin impressions also exist.

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Chart tracking Triceratops Skull price performance on Rally.

Source: rallyrd.com

Dinosaurs are having a bit of a revival, along with other types of alternative assets. These fossils are making more of an appearance at auction houses. There are even investing platforms like Rally, where you can purchase fractional shares of these ancient pieces of Earth’s history.

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The surge in amateur paleontologists means you can find fossils just about anywhere, from private homes to offices. In Dubai, one of the main attractions is an 80-foot-long Diplodocus, while one of the best Tyrannosaurus rex skulls is in a software company's lobby. Hollywood is even participating, with celebrity collectors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicolas Cage, and Russell Crowe getting in on the pre-historic action.

Are dinosaur bones a good investment?

Dinosaur fossils have a long history of being held in private collections, but interest in collecting fossils is roaring. So how do dinosaur bones hold up as an investment asset?

Most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks that form when sand, silt, mud, and organic material (like bones) settle outside water or air and form rock layers. Finding this type of rock from the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs lived is time intensive and requires extensive funding and research from paleontologists.

Because of this, dinosaur remains are very expensive to collect and often sell for millions of dollars at auction. Investors who are hoping to turn a profit also must compete with other collectors who are passionate about owning a piece of natural history.

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Tyrannosaurus rex holotype specimen at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History purchased for $141,083.81 (adjusted for inflation). Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most expensive dinosaur was a T. rex from South Dakota named Stan that sold for $31.8 million at Christie’s on October 6, 2020. A fighting pair of dinos went for $2.75 million at Heritage Auctions on June 13, 2011.

And a dinosaur skeleton of Gorgosaurus, a relative of the T. rex, sold for $6.1 million at Sotheby’s on July 28, 2022.

It was the second time that Sotheby’s sold a full-sized fossilized dinosaur skeleton. The first was a T. rex named Sue, sold to Chicago’s Field Museum in 1997 for $8.36 million. The money for the fossilized bones was provided not by the museum but by large corporations and private donors, including the Walt Disney Company and McDonald's.

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A Megalodon jaw offered for $600,000 on Rally. 

Source: rallyrd.com

While that might seem like a pretty penny, it’s just a fraction of the price paid for some of the most expensive artwork ever sold, like Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450.3 million in 2016. Fine art investments are also much more common as an alternative asset class.

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Fossils, however, are an uncommon asset class since only a few go up for auction each year.  The other issue is also size. After all, not everyone can fit a 12-foot dinosaur in their living room.

Controversies around investing in dinosaur bones

Investing in dinosaur bones is not without its controversies. One of the most significant ethical issues around buying a dinosaur skeleton is whether or not selling it is allowed. Sometimes smugglers will take fossils out of the country they were discovered in without the explicit authority of that country’s government.

Nicolas Cage famously returned the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar to Mongolia after the Department of Homeland Security told him that the item was stolen. Cage had paid $276,000 in an anonymous auction in 2007.

Another concern for fossil collecting, especially among scientists and paleontologists, is the ethics around whether private investors should collect them in the first place. Some believe dinosaur bones and other types of fossils should only be displayed in public museums because they're of high educational and scientific value.

Jurassic chances

Jurassic chances

Would you buy a T. rex?

We're still discovering a lot about these ancient reptiles from a million years ago. New technology has changed what scientists think dinosaurs look like, and there are still more questions than answers.

If you're interested in investing in a fossil bone, do your due diligence to identify where the item is from and make sure it’s from a legal seller.

How to invest in dinosaur bones

Whether you're a budding paleontologist or hoping to create your own Jurassic Park, you don’t necessarily have to have millions of dollars on hand to invest in dinosaurs, especially if you're looking to invest during a recession. There are many types of fossils and bones, with roughly 700 species discovered and named.  

You can find dinosaurs on auction sites like Sotheby’s, Heritage, and Goldin. You don’t have to buy a full-sized dinosaur skeleton, either. Some common fossils you can find at an auction include single teeth and individual bones.

An easier way to invest in dinosaur fossils is to buy fractional shares through the Rally investing app, which already has three securitized dino bones. By securitizing dinosaur remains, Rally enables investors to gain exposure to collectible fossils without needing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

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Chart tracking Mosasaur Skeleton price performance on Rally.

Source: rallyrd.com

For example, Rally offered a 3.6 million old Megalodon fossil with a market cap of $600,000 for just $20 a share, and 1686 investors took it up. It features a resin jaw reconstruction with 184 fossil shark teeth. You can also buy shares of a Triceratops skull or Mosasaur skeleton, an extinct marine lizard. Rally stores the bones, so you don’t need to find space to display them or worry about properly caring for your pre-historic pet.