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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

California Tar Pit Saber-Toothed Tiger Skull for Dallas Auction

A 95% intact Saber-Toothed Tiger skull, or Smilodon, found in the late 1960s by a 14-year-old “weekend collector” at the famous La Brea Tar Pit Formation, will anchor an auction of rare and important Natural History on May 17 at Heritage Auctions Galleries’ Slocum Street showroom in the Dallas Design District.

In the rarified air of the upper echelons of American fossil collecting, two things hold equally true: The intact fossils of Saber-Toothed Tigers are among the most desirable, and those that come from Los Angeles’ world renowned La Brea Tar Pit Formation are far and away the most prized. There are scant few of these treasures, and they almost never leave the private collections in which they already reside. A singular specimen has emerged, however, and on Sunday, May 17, it will be sold as part of a Heritage Signature® Natural History Auction.

“Smilodons are extremely rare to obtain and are highly prized among collectors in general, particularly their skulls,” said David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History at Heritage. “Fossils from the La Brea Formation are like the Holy Grail of fossil collecting given that the site has been closed to private collecting for almost 40 years. Without a doubt, the present specimen is the finest ever to appear on the open market.”

According to Herskowitz, this specimen is “fantastically rare,” as almost all Smilodon skulls from Rancho La Brea exhibited in museums have disassociated mandibles – In this instance, however, 95% of the skull is original.

“It all came from the very same animal,” Herskowitz said. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack just to find any Smilodon skull. To have one this well preserved is as if that needle was made of pure gold.”

This La Brea Saber-Toothed Tiger skull is estimated at $200,000-$250,000.

Heritage’s Natural History auctions are also well known among collectors – both in and out of the Natural History subset – for the wide range of exquisite gem and jewel quality mineral and meteorite lots that appear in them. This May will be no different as a host of superb examples make their way to Dallas.

Chief among those examples is a well-documented meteorite, equally well covered by media outlets, that was seen soaring across the skies of North Texas in February.

“Just a couple of months ago a fireball streaked through the Dallas sky,” Herskowitz said. “Moments later it was announced that the fireball was indeed a meteorite, which broke up during its entry through our atmosphere, and that most of the fragments rained down on some farmland just south of Dallas in West, Texas. Within a day meteorite hunters flocked to West in search of this cosmic treasure. A few days later it was announced that a couple of complete specimens were found and that they were going to be auctioned off at Heritage. This is one consignment that literally just about landed in our laps.”

The three specimens of the West, Texas meteorite range in estimates from $650-$850 for the smallest up to $12,000-$16,000 for the largest piece, which is among the largest of those found from the event.

Another truly historic meteorite up for auction in the May Heritage event is the famous “Garza Stone,” which was obtained from a Chicago suburb when the neighborhood of Park Forest was pelted with meteorites in 2003. The shower caused quite a scare when this specimen crashed through the bedroom ceiling of Robert Garza’s house and missed his head by just a few inches. It ricocheted around his room, wreaking havoc, before finally coming to rest in the middle of the bedroom.

The meteorite weighed in at a hefty 2,333 grams, acquired the name of the child whose room it destroyed and has now landed on the Heritage auction block. It carries an estimate of $55,000-$75,000.

Further highlights include: An exceptional “Bird-Dinosaur” skull, estimated at $50,000-$60,000; a rare Crested Dinosaur Skull, estimated at $40,000-$55,000; a fine pair of Mammoth tusks, coming out of Alaska, with a $24,000-$30,000 estimate; a superb precious gem ammonite, which carries a pre-auction estimate of $28,000-$32,000; a wonderful cluster of Benitoite and Neptunite with a $28,000-$32,000 estimate; a “Native Gold” solar corona, estimated at $150,00-$200,000; a deep cherry-red Rhodochrosite specimen from the Sweet Home Mine is one of the significant ‘world class’ specimens to be offered, which is expected to bring between $350,000-$425,000; and a ruby-red Proustite from Chañarcillo, which is estimated at $70,000-$80,000.

As with every Natural History auction at Heritage, a wealth of ‘classic’ mineral specimens, both old and new, abounds in this auction: A fine Fluorite specimen from Andrew Carnegie’s personal collection will be one of the featured historic minerals in the upcoming Natural History auction. This fine specimen dates to the late 1800s, or very early 1900s. Other historic specimens include a notable Tsumeb Azurite from the Roebling Collection of the Smithsonian; a Native Silver specimen from the famed Silver Islet mine; and an early Bisbee Azurite that can be traced back to the Sorbonne.

For more information on this auction, to view the entire catalog or to see fully enlargeable images of each lot, and to bid, go online to