While I was on vacation to visit family this summer, the last thing I thought I would be doing with my time off was driving fourteen hours to Kentucky to pick up a human skeleton, but of course that ended up happening!
Earlier that week, I had gotten an email from someone looking to sell a skeleton. I felt this would be a perfect opportunity to explain how skeletons generally enter the public market, especially since the most frequently asked questions that I receive are always about where I get all of these pieces from. Upon further inspection of the photos that the seller sent to me, it appeared that this piece was a real Clay Adams human skeleton.
Clay Adams was a prominent distributor of skeletons based in New York back in the 1920s, and it wasn't uncommon for their skeletons to make their way all across the United States. Human skeletons have always been a necessity for doctors and medical students to better understand human anatomy. If you want to know why this is important, check out our other blog posts “here” where we discuss human variation.
The seller’s grandfather was a doctor who acquired the skeleton during medical school, but after he retired, the skeleton was put in their barn and forgotten about. About twenty years ago, there was a fire in the barn that destroyed the original Clay Adams box and paperwork that the skeleton was packaged with. The family then moved the skeleton into an empty guest bedroom where it stayed for about ten years. Over time, it got a little banged up from being moved around, and it also started to scare the seller’s grandchildren, so they decided it was time to let it go. The family had no idea what the skeleton was worth or even that there are people out there who are interested in buying that sort of stuff!
That’s where I came in to help find the skeleton a new home! Overall, this is exactly how most medical pieces come into the market. They are usually inherited by an unexpected family member from a medical professional, and then they sell it off to an auction for private entities such as myself.
The remainder of the trip was a blast. I drove seven hours there to get it with my best friend Erick, dropped the skeleton into the back seat of the car, and then we drove another seven hours back home to Indiana!