PARIS-The skeletons of an allosaurus and a diplodocus are up for auction in Paris this week, marketed as hip interior design objects - for those with big enough living rooms. “The fossil market is no longer just for scientists,” said Iacopo Briano of Binoche et Giquello, the auction house that is putting the two dinosaurs under the hammer on Wednesday. “Dinosaurs have become cool, trendy - real objects of decoration, like paintings,” the Italian expert told AFP, citing Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicolas Cage as fans of such outsize prehistoric ornaments.

Cage, however, did hand back the rare skull of a tyrannosaurus bataar, a close cousin of T. rex, that he bought in 2007 after it was found to have been stolen and illegally taken out of Mongolia. Dinosaur bones are increasingly gracing collectors’ cabinets, with another huge skeleton, that of a theropod, expected to fetch up to 1.5 million euros ($1.84 million) when it goes up for auction in June. “For the last two or three years the Chinese have become interested in palaeontology and have been looking for big specimens of dinosaurs found on their soil, for their museums or even for individuals,” Briano said. The new buyers are now bidding against multinational corporations as well as ultra-rich Europeans and Americans, the “traditional” buyers of dinosaur skeletons, Briano added.

In 1997, McDonald’s and Walt Disney were among donors stumping up $8.36 million to buy Sue - the most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found - for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.