The Best Fossils for Your Buck

Fossil collecting doesn’t have to be the élitist hobby that it’s often perceived as. So your bid of fifty dollars was just shy of the $6.1-million hammer price of the T. rex skull sold at Sotheby’s this December. Sure, it stings, especially because you were outbid by both Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage on that other dino skull a few years back. But, for the thrifty fossil hunter, there are plenty of affordable options if you know where to look.


A small piece of amber with a fossilized mosquito suspended in it. That’s $18.02 on Etsy. This starter fossil is also an investment piece: in sixty-five million years’ time, DNA from this mosquito can be used to create actual living dinosaurs, which can be kept in an amusement park on a distant tropical island.


The skeleton of the rat that your cat dragged into the living room and killed on your carpet last night. Zero dollars for the rat; $4.98 for OxiClean carpet-and-rug stain remover, because there was some, uh, spillage.


The turkey wishbone your nephews were squabbling over and dropped at Thanksgiving, which you found when you lifted up the now ruined rat-gut carpet. Pull it with your husband, and, if you snap the big end, you can wish for a six-million-dollar gorgosaurus fossil. If you don’t . . . I guess your husband gets the gorgosaurus. It’s $39.56 for a sixteen-pound turkey.


Dino nuggets! They’re anywhere between $6.34 and $20.89, depending on whether we’re going organic or not.


Your kid’s milk teeth: the cost of playing the tooth fairy (ten dollars for the first tooth, five dollars for teeth two to four and molars, two dollars for the rest).


Three broken bottles, one piece of what is maybe fossilized wood but also might just be a fossilized turd, and what you thought was gold but was actually a Twix wrapper: $5.50 for the subway and bus tickets to get to Dead Horse Bay, where your husband took you in the hopes of getting this fossil-hunting business out of your system before you took out a second mortgage to spend a hundred thousand dollars on a T. rex tooth.


A picture of nineties Leo DiCaprio with the mosasaur skull that he sold to Russell Crowe in 2008, which has been Photoshopped so that it looks like he’s staring lovingly into the deep, mysterious chasms where its eyes once were. It’s $20.99 a month for the Adobe Photoshop subscription, which can be used to Photoshop more images of dinosaur bones onto more nineties heartthrobs—Brad Pitt and a diplodocus, Ricky Martin and a triceratops, etc.


A DVD of “National Treasure,” starring fellow fossil collector Nicolas Cage. That’s $4.93, plus $29.99 to buy a DVD player to actually play it on. Who said DVDs were extinct?

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