Beyond price. How much would you pay for a lump of dinosaur dung?

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Helen Fields is a freelance science writer based in Washington, D.C.

Betty Grable's famous legs were insured by Lloyd's of London for $1 million. Now the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina is trying to figure out the value of a much less sexy treasure: a football-sized chunk of fossilized dinosaur poop.

Weighing in at 7 kilograms, the Tyrannosaurus rex coprolite was the largest known when museum fossil hunters found it poking out of the Saskatchewan mud in 1995. But the rock's very uniqueness makes it difficult to set a price. So museum officials recently sent a note to an e-mail list for paleontologists, asking for opinions. It's all part of a routine insurance assessment, says earth sciences curator Harold Bryant.

Michael Sincak, owner of Treasures of the Earth Ltd. in Hollsopple, Pennsylvania, believes the coprolite would probably sell for $15,000 or more. But he's not sure, because nothing quite like it has ever been on the market. (You can get a small one for about $10 on eBay.) Scientifically, though, "it's priceless," says Mark Goodwin, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology. "You're trying to put a square peg in a round hole when you try to put a value on it."

Posted in Paleontology, Policy