The San Diego Natural History Museum removed 12 fossils it had listed for sale. Seven of those it had purchased from Kansas scientist Charles Sternberg in the 1920s. The items were to be sold by New York-based Bonhams auction house said a recent article in The Republic.
Mike Everhart, Sternberg Museum adjunct curator, said he struggled with the possibility that the Sternberg fossils could go to private collectors, and that he would have loved to have the pieces for his museum, but it didn’t have the money.
"Historically, I consider them all priceless because they were collected by Charles Sternberg," Everhart told The Hays Daily News.
Opening bids were expected to start at between $100,000 and $125,000 on one of the pieces, a Xiphactinus fish collected in the 1920s in western Kansas. The specimen is 13 feet long. Another, a 17-foot-long mosasaur, was also found in Kansas and has a starting price of between $75,000 and $100,000.
The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology issued a statement critical of the San Diego museum's decision to sell the fossils.
"By offering these vertebrate fossils at public auction, their loss to the public trust is virtually guaranteed," the SVP said in the statement. "Such an action also supports the commercialization of vertebrate fossils that has become so destructive to our science. It is equally disheartening to see the legacy of Charles H. Sternberg used to promote the commercial sale of these museum fossils."