The specimen qualifies as a bone fide antique of historical importance, and may be one of the
oldest known large whale skeleton still on exhibition in
The key value in this specimen lies in the quality of
its state of preservation.
This cannot be duplicated easily today.
Most museum skeleton mounts of this size and quality
were done during the whaling period, when rendering plants
existed and fresh specimens were available. Thus, the value of this specimen can be judged
against its replacement in today's labor market and not
by past sales of similar items, which in any case do not
exist - at least not in the last 25 years since laws were
enacted to protect endangered wildlife.
To appreciate the costs involved, one must briefly consider
the challenge in undertaking such a Herculean project. Let's say, for example, that a recently beached
dead whale has been located.
A humpback whale may reach 13 meters and weigh as
much as 30,000 kg. A carcass of this size would have to be quickly
loaded by a crane on to a flat bed truck and transported
to a dumpsite without passing a populated area.
There it would be skinned, gutted, fleshed and dismembered
into manageable sections by a crew of hardy workers, which
may take from several months to a year. Such a facility would have to be well equipped
with custom made iron tubs together with a good exhaust
system in addition to many other necessary tools and materials. The cleaned skeleton is then bleached with hydrogen peroxide and
finished with a protective wax coating.
Assuming that the specimen is intended for exhibition
and is to be mounted freestanding of three-dimensionally,
the last step in this process may also be somewhat of a
challenge. A specially
constructed iron frame must be designed to support the immense
weight of the skeleton, so that it may be displayed safely,
especially if it is to be suspended from a ceiling, and
so that it is balanced in an aesthetic manner.
Considering the salary based on man hours, rental of
facility, materials needed, insurance and transportation,
one can easily envision an estimated expense of $250,000
- 300,000 USD. This fore mentioned amount would be the replacement
value, which however, does not represent the full value
of the skeleton. To
this replacement cost must be added a potential public exhibition
draw value spread over a ten year period, which alone could
easily reach a seven digit figure.
approximately 12 years, Henry was employed by the American
Museum of Natural History in New York, Department of Vertebrae
Paleontology as a Scientific Assistant.
During my tenure at the Museum, I did field collecting,
laboratory preparations and wrote research papers (publications
can be supplied on request).
Henry is now the proprietor of one of the best known
retail establishments, Maxilla & Mandible Ltd. which
wholesales and retails fossils among other natural history
related items. During
his 16 years in business, he has provided general consulting
services and estate appraisals for insurance and donation
purposes to non-profit organizations. He is a consultant and appraiser to Sotheby's. Phillips and Butterfield
& Butterfield auction houses.
During the sale of the complete Tyrannosaurus rex
skeleton known as "Sue" by Sotheby's, he was the Paleontological
Consultant in charge of the auction.
Professional affiliations include Sustaining Member
of the Society of Vertebrae Paleontology and Honorary Member
of the New York Paleontological Society.
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