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Rare dinosaur skull lands at Aspen gallery

Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesBy Nature Gallery owner Rick Rolater sets the jaw bone on the skull of a Tarbosaurus bataar on Friday. The dinosaur skull is for sale at the gallery.

Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesBy Nature Gallery owner Rick Rolater sets the jaw bone on the skull of a Tarbosaurus bataar on Friday. The dinosaur skull is for sale at the gallery.

ASPEN , Colorado” Still wondering what Christmas gift to get for that special someone who has everything?

How about a dinosaur head? No, seriously.

At a price of $425,000, By Nature Gallery owner Rick Rolater is trying to sell the 100-pound fossilized skull of a Tarbosaurus bataar, a Mongolian relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

On Friday, a crew of two was busy unloading the prize piece at Rolater’s Aspen gallery. The head is attracting attention from some very high-end collectors, he said. The last such piece sold at auction to actor Nicholas Cage, Rolater said.

“I think all of us are fascinated with dinosaurs,” he said.

Rolater has been in the business of rare collectibles for more than 30 years, and for the past five years he’s been selling everything from fossils and geodes to rarities like dinosaur bones. Rolater has run a gallery in Beaver Creek for five years, and in 2005, opened the gallery in Aspen.

A founder of the chain of Discovery Channel stores in the U.S., Rolater said his reputation and network of connections with intrepid fossil hunters and explorers land him the most prize pieces.

“They seek me out when they find something,” Rolater said.

It’s not the first time Rolater has sold dinosaur bones. In fact, he once brokered a deal with a museum for a full 275-bone T-Rex skeleton.

The head on display at the Cooper Avenue gallery was found in Mongolia about 10 years ago, Rolater said, and is one of six that were exported. It’s about 75 percent organic material ” a high ratio, Rolater said ” and the rest is restoration material.

The hulking piece sat in a French office building for years before Rolater recently acquired it. But Rolater is still awaiting arrival of a large bronze stand that suspends the head above ground.

In the wake of recent thefts from high-end jewelry stores in Aspen, Rolater and his Aspen gallery director, John Gacnik, don’t have a lot of concerns about thieves.

“This is one they can’t carry out,” Gacnik joked. “And we won’t have a hard time finding them if they steal this.”

cagar@aspentimes.com.

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