Pique'n yer interest 

Eating chips out of T. Rex’s head, and other ways to sell out

When the dinos go on sale, you know people will do anything for money.

On June 1, at around 1 p.m., ancient dinosaur skulls with eye sockets the size of dinner plates joined the list of Big Bad Things You Can Buy. And unlike most items on the list  (stolen kidneys, gorilla claws, sex trade workers), the dinosaur sale didn't take place in a back alley near Khao San Road, Bangkok. It took place in the bowels of a prominent auction house in New York.

Shop on! Visa and Master Cards accepted!

First on display at the Bonham's Natural History house: a yellow and grey skull with 76 serrated teeth from the "Tyrant Lizard," a relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex - only one of four such skulls ever discovered.

Then came the Triceratops who roamed the Hells Creek Formation in North Dakota almost 65 million years ago. His or her skull had eye sockets the size of dinner plates and measured 1.7 metres long - the same size as me - according to reports from the BBC.

Collectors know a good steal when they see one: The two ancient fossils, from two ancient animals, sold for nice solid sum of $206,000 U.S. and $242,000 U.S., respectively.

That's less than the cost to buy a one-bedroom apartment in Whistler on the open market, and if you break it down it means that every year of the dinos' lives were worth about $32.50 for collectors - which is less money than the average Whistlerite spends on WAVE bus fares per month.

Super score!

Unfortunately, this month's peddling of Triceratops and the T. Rex relative doesn't mark the first time in history dinosaur bones have been sold on the private market.

The selling of dinosaur bits and pieces (called "dinosauria" by those in the know) has been taking place in the underbelly of the auction house world for years, stooping to a very low level of dirty commerce. After all, it is one thing to buy a T. Rex's tooth as a souvenir, but it is a whole other ball game to buy the beast's entire head.

So how will these two unnamed - anonymous - buyers display their skulls with eye sockets the size of plates in their living rooms? Will they use them for nuts and chips when friends come over for a visit? String flowers through their jaws in the summer time? Or maybe pop in some light bulbs and turn them into reading lamps?

Over here in the paradise mountain resort of Whistler we aren't in the midst of private dinosaur auctioneers eager to sell, sell, sell for a little extra coin. But we are nine months away from a fantastic opportunity for almost anyone in the Sea to Sky Corridor to sell out on a monster-sized level if they get creative.

And, no doubt, the Olympics are going to take a little imagination. The most obvious, most tried way has so far proven unsuccessful: renting your house for thousands of dollars a day to wealthy Winter Games-happy tourists (although there are a few lucky stars who have managed to hand over their keys in exchange for a wheelbarrow of cash).

But folks will find other ways to sell out for February 2010. We are an ingenious bunch.

I can already smell the charcoaled meat coming off the hot dog stands along Highway 99 selling juicy "Oly dogs." And I can hear the hustling of the people running their own private (slightly illegal) taxi services to shuttle bus-wary spectators from venue to venue, as well as from "local secret spot" to "local secret spot," just like they do every New Year's Eve.

What about Whistler memorabilia marketed in dark basement suites as "must-have Games collectables?" Bootlegged 2010 t-shirts hawked outside event venues at "special" two-for-the-price-of-one deals? Or hidden hostels (read: two bedroom apartments with bunk beds) to house the hundreds of seasonal workers kicked out of their places on the stroke of midnight, January 30.

And you can bet there will be jacked up pricing in stores and restaurants because those who can afford expensive Olympic tickets can also afford $15 beers.

When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this big comes along, who wants to be a boring old "gracious host" just to keep bad press down and ensure spectators return? Hell, if fancy auction houses can get away with selling 65-million-year-old bones, what is holding anyone back from selling their Olympic soul for some cash?

Money (as the dinosaurs sales so nicely reminded us) will always be king. Values can easily be chucked out the window.

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