NEW YORK – It may look like a geologic find, but a three-pound red and white fossil heading for auction Wednesday is actually a pile of dinosaur dung.
Bonhams New York is putting the prehistoric deposit up for sale along with a 30,000-year-old woolly mammoth tusk, expected to sell for up to $50,000. The auction house predicts the 50,000-year-old skull and jaws of a giant beaver will sell for about $20,000.
The dinosaur dung, identified by the auction house as Jurassic era coprolite, looks like a rock on the outside and a colorful mineral inside. It is 130 million years old and is expected to sell for between $350 and $450. It has lost any original odor.
Bonhams is expecting an array of bidders to show at the auction, from celebrities to interior decorators.
"Fossils are now becoming more of an accepted decorative piece with designers, especially on the west coast," said Tom Lindgren, the auction house's consulting director of natural history. "A number of fossils have a very sculptural appeal."
"The rarer the specimen, the more ferocious the specimen, the more beautiful the specimen, the more competition between celebrities" over it, said Lindgren.
The auction house is also selling some items from the Ordovician era, which took place between 438 and 505 million years ago.
The priciest item up for sale is the Fukang Meteorite, weighing almost a ton. It was discovered in Fukang, China, in 2000, and Bonhams says it's expected to sell for $2.25 million to $2.75 million.
The owner of the Fukang section, a curator of the meteorite collection at the University of Arizona, has been reluctant to further slice it up, although doing so would likely yield greater profit, Lindgren said.
In October, Bonhams failed to sell a 30-pound chunk of the Willamette Meteorite, which was found in Oregon in 1902 and had long been steeped in ownership controversies.
The fragment was offered at an estimated value of $1.3 million, but was withdrawn from sale after bidding ended at $300,000.