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Friday, 14 June 2024
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The pride of Switzerland: first European auction of a T-Rex
The pride of Switzerland: first European auction of a T-Rex

On a cold mid-December evening in 2022, a Lufthansa aircraft from the Phoenix, Arizona, lands in Zurich. On board what will soon do headlines- the king of the dinosaurs. Within ten large wooden boxes, 293 carefully wrapped pieces of skeleton which will become a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 147 of these, are real dinosaur bone material. Never before such a creature has come to Switzerland. This particular T-Rex is called TRX-293 Trinity, as is a skeleton assembled from three Tyrannosaurus Rex individuals. All three specimens were found and excavated in neighbouring areas in the Hell Creek and Lance Creek in the US states of Montana and Wyoming and are very similar in size and age. With over 50% original fossils, Trinity is more complete than many dinosaur fossils displayed in the world's major museums.
 
With the help of a nearby expert team from the dinosaur museum in Aathal, the T-Rex-293 Trinity has been built within two working days according to a precise plan sent from Phoenix. The 67million-year old skeleton is an impressive 11.6 meters long and 3.9 meter high. The unusual object can be admired by the public over a three-week period in Zurich's Tonhalle until April 16, before it will go under the hammer and auctioned on April 18 as the last lot of the second "Out of this World" auction.
It is only the third time ever, worldwide, that a Tyrannosaurus Rex is offered at an auction. The Auction House Koller is one of the world's leading auction houses. The starting bid stands at 5 million Swiss Francs (= 5,47million USD) aiming up to 8 million Swiss Francs (= 8,450million USD). 
I have had the opportunity to speak to Mr Cyrill Koller, the Chief Executive Officer at Koller Auctions. When asked why precisely Switzerland has been chosen to auction the worldwide only third T-Rex in history, he said: 
 
“Our auction house "Koller Auctions" has been conducting auctions in various areas since 1960 and has therefore had a large international clientele for a long time. In addition to art, jewellery and watches, we also regularly auction objects from various other collection areas. With over 20 departments, we offer one of the widest ranges of any auction house in Europe. Two years ago I met Christian Link, who has been trading in meteorites, dinosaur fossils, geological features, but also in testimonies from the history of space exploration and rare memorabilia from the film and music industry for 15 years. Together we have decided to offer a new collection area at Koller auctions under the name «Out of this world». The first auction took place in June 2022 and was a great success with a sales rate of over 95%. Among other things, we were able to sell a pterodactyl for CHF 360,000, which was three times the auction estimate. This is how the owner of Trinity became aware of us and offered us the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton for our auction”.
 
Mr Koller explains that he had not had any hesitation in accepting the hugely privileged Auction slot when offered to his auction house. 
“Together with palaeontologists, fossil preparators and museum people, we have examined the T-Rex offer and have concluded that it is a reputable supplier whose information about Trinity is correct. After that, we didn't hesitate any longer and enthusiastically accepted the offer to auction Trinity in April 2023 in Zurich. For the owner, the priority was to inspire new collectors outside of the USA for this extraordinary fossil”. 
 
When thinking of a future for this special skeleton, Mr Koller states that “It would be particularly nice if Trinity could be sold into a public collection. But even if a private individual were to win the bid, we are convinced that Trinity will sooner or later be seen in public.”
 
Pride is what Cyrill Koller strongly feels regarding the upcoming auction on April 18
“As the first European auction house to be able to offer an original T. rex skeleton, we are proud. Equally great is the satisfaction of seeing the joy of all visitors who visit Trinity in Zurich's Tonhalle during the currently open exhibition. Interest in seeing Trinity during the auction preview is very high. The viewing slots, which we set up for security reasons, have been expanded for the third time and are fully booked after just a few hours”.
 
Thinking of an ideal target buyer, Mr Koller said:
“Trinity's ideal target buyer is either a public collection or a private individual with a passion for dinosaurs and various forms of ancient life, and the financial means to do so, this is only the third T-Rex skeleton to be offered at auction anywhere in the world, to acquire. Interested parties with whom we have been in contact regarding the Trinity auction have also signalled to us that they are quite willing to show this impressive fossil publicly”. 
As this auction could also be controversial, as some pantologists may fear, that research might be compromised if the auction goes to a private buyer, it is definitely a huge attraction and a privilege for the small country of Switzerland. The expectation is high when in April Zurich becomes the centre of the world, at least for the dinosaur lovers and auction interests…and for those with the right budget to bid on the T-Rex-293 Trinity.

By: Luisa Markides