First edition US constitution copy sells for $43million after investor outbids crypto crowd-funders
A first edition copy of US constitution has sold at auction for $43million after a mystery investor outbid crypto crowd-funders who raised $40million to buy the 1787 document ‘for the people’.
Sotheby’s auction house, which staged the sale, said the item was one of only 11 known surviving copies of the US charter, signed on September 17, 1787 at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall by America’s founding fathers including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison.
The winning bidder was not immediately identified but a Sotheby’s spokesperson said the $43.2million price tag including commissions was a world record for a historical document offered at auction.
A 17,000-strong group of cryptocurrency investors had raised $40million to try to buy the document but failed to secure the prize, the consortium said. It had raised some $40 million in the cryptocurrency ethereum in recent days, but fell short at the auction.
The original copy – one of just two still in private hands, in this case the US collector Dorothy Tapper Goldman – was estimated last September at between $15 and $20million.
A first edition copy of US constitution (pictured) has sold at auction for $43million after a mystery investor outbid crypto crowd-funders who raised $40million to buy the 1787 document ‘for the people’
The original copy – one of just two still in private hands, in this case the US collector Dorothy Tapper Goldman – was estimated last September at between $15 and $20million
In the end it went for more than twice that sum, and in just eight minutes as bidders in the New York auction room but also on the phone from around the globe upped their offers.
The cryptocurrency consortium that sought the rare document called itself ConstitutionDAO, the last three letters standing for ‘decentralized autonomous organization.’
According to its Twitter account, it had more than 17,000 contributors.
‘We didn’t get the constitution, but we made history nonetheless’ the group, ConstitutionDAO, said on Twitter.
‘We broke the record for the largest crowdfund for a physical object and most money crowdfunded in 72h, which will of course be refunded to everyone who participated,’ it said.
The group had offered participants a governance token, meaning they would have a say in where the document was displayed, rather than a fraction of the ownership.
The item was one of only 11 known surviving copies of the US charter, signed on September 17, 1787 at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall by America’s founding fathers including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison
The historical document sold in just eight minutes as bidders in the New York auction room but also on the phone from around the globe put in offers
Such groups have begun forming loose coalitions recently to raise funds to bid on expensive collectibles, including one group that pulled together $4 million for a rare Wu-Tang Clan album that had previously been owned by jailed hedge fund founder Martin Shkreli.
Selby Kiffer, a manuscripts and ancient books expert at Sotheby’s, said in September that this copy was probably part of an edition of 500 printed the day before the signing, and likely came off the printing presses on the evening of September 16 1787.
The text, with its celebrated opening of ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,’ went on to be ratified by the individual states, starting with Delaware in December 1787 and ending with Rhode Island in May 1790.
It officially became the United States’ founding charter on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth of 13 states to ratify it.
Sotheby’s auction house and auctioneer Quig Bruning staged the sale in New York on Thursday
What happened to all the copies of the US Constitution?
Almost 500 copies of the constitution were made at the first printing of the text of the Constitution in 1787.
The text was adopted in Philadelphia and submitted to the Constitutional Congress for review in September 1787.
Nearly 500 copies of the document were created and given the Congress’ delegates.
Thirteen copies were given to each of the 13 colonies of Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, for ratification.
Only 11 of those copies have survived today. Nine of them are in museums, including two in the US’ Library of Congress, six in other institutions in the US and one in London. The other two are privately owned and held in the US.
Copies from that first printing, bearing no signatures were also furnished to delegates of the Constitutional Convention itself. Two surviving copies are housed at the Library of Congress.
The first constitutional printing versions contain only the seven original articles laying out the framework for the US national government and its powers, its relationship to the states and procedures used to subsequently ratify and amend the Constitution itself.
Almost 500 copies of the constitution were made at the first printing of the text of the Constitution, as adopted in Philadelphia and submitted to the Continental Congress for review with only 11 of these surviving today
The copy sold Thursday was one of the last privately owned versions and was held by Dorothy Tapper.
It was last sold by Sotheby’s in 1998 when it went for $165,000 to Tapper’s wife, S. Howard Goldman.
Goldman was a New York real estate developer and private collector of American autographs, historical documents and manuscripts.
Written on handmade paper with a very high cotton-rag content, NPR reported, the document is so well preserved the new owner could pick it up, hold it and read it.
Meanwhile the master version is located in the National Archives Museum in Washington DC alongside the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.
Regarded as the oldest, continuing codified government charter in the world, the US Constitution was devised to replace the young nation’s first, largely inefficient charter, the Articles of Confederation.
It was ratified by the states in 1788 and went into effect the following year. It has since been amended 27 times.