Not many Rome residents decorate their homes with the bones of dead animals.
Alan Stout does. A tusk here, a skull there, perhaps a tooth in that corner. But these aren’t just any bones. They’re ancient. Prehistoric.
Stout is a dinosaur hunter, collector and dealer. He researches, collects, buys and sells rare and valuable fossils and bones of creatures which lived millions of years ago. And his house is a way station of sorts as valuable bones and fossils pass through his hands on their way to collectors and museums.
But his true passion is collecting them and sharing his knowledge with anyone willing to listen.
As a child, Stout had a strong interest in dinosaurs and was encouraged by his dad in this pursuit. But it wasn’t until 20 years ago that he started collecting.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Stout moved to Rome in 1984. At the time, he was collecting small fossils and bones of small animals and trilobites (invertebrates).
But after years of research, he decided that he wanted to be more serious about it.
“I kept working and trying to get better pieces,” he said. “Then I got laid off in 2001 and I made a conscious decision to collect bones and fossils of dinosaurs, mammals and other prehistoric beasts.
Stout has dozens and dozens of rare pieces in his collection. The full skull of an early giraffe sits in his living room. Dinosaur eggs, fossils and in some cases full skeletons line the walls of his home office.
“I purchase many of the pieces at shows all over the country,” he said. “I also get pieces directly from ranchers and other dinosaur hunters.”
But he also hunts for bones himself. Later this year he’ll travel to South Dakota and Wyoming to do just that.
When he receives an item, Stout first identifies it. After years of research he has can quickly identify most pieces. But some require a little investigation. The next step is cleaning and prepping. Some pieces come cleaned and prepped. But many are in the same condition in which they were found. That requires Stout to first remove dirt and soil or “matrix” — as dinosaur hunters call it — from around the object.
He then uses a small, hand-held rotary tool to remove the remaining dirt. After brushing down the piece, Stout applies sealant to keep the bone from splintering, then applies putty to seal any holes.
Some pieces require restoration, but many are perfectly preserved.
He does all the prep work in his garage which is filled with boxes and crates ready to be delivered to buyers. One box, headed for Texas, contains a Triceratops horn while another contains perhaps Stout’s most valuable piece, the skull of an Archaeotherium which lived about 6 million years ago, Stout said. In life, the creature probably resembled a large, fanged wild hog with bumps projecting from the side of its head.
Stout estimated the Archaeotherium skull at about $15,000. He purchased it from a museum and sold it to a buyer in New York.
But selling his pieces is only something Stout does so he can purchase other items for his collection.
And his most prized pieces are in his impressive collection of saber cat skulls and bones.
“I would say that I’m an expert on saber cats,” Stout said. “I have researched them for years and I’m in contact with one of the top saber cat experts in the country.”
His knowledge of the extinct cats has been recognized by several local organizations. Stout has been invited to speak on the subject by area museums as well as Berry College and various clubs.
His cat collection includes the skulls of several subfamilies of saber cats. Many of them cost thousands of dollars. They’re so rare and valuable that Stout doesn’t trust himself with prepping any of the cat pieces. He sends them off to a professional.
A walk through his home is like a dinosaur fan’s dream. There are fossilized raptor eggs on shelves and a large curling mammoth tusk on the kitchen table. Stout’s largest piece is a brontosaurus femur.
And his knowledge is as remarkable as the rarity of his pieces. Stout has taught himself to recognize and identify bones and fossils of a variety of extinct species and he has cultivated a network of other hunters, buyers, sellers and experts with whom he shares information.
But while Alan Stout may collect, buy and sell pieces that are financially and archaeologically valuable, it’s clear that his interest in them is more of a personal passion than anything else.
Like a kid visiting the museum of natural history for the first time and staring up at the gigantic T-Rex skeleton, Stout is genuinely excited about each fossil, skull or vertebrae that passes through his hands. Incidentally, he also owns a rare T-Rex tibia.
“I consider myself more of a collector than anything else,” he said. “I am fascinated by this stuff. I love it. I love the history and the archaeology and the sheer joy of finding something that no one else has found. That’s what I want to share with everyone else.”
Alan Stout is available for talks at clubs, schools, museums and other local organizations. For contact information or to see photos of his collection, visit online at www.dinolandplus.com