Record-Smashing $43.2 Million U.S. Constitution Will Be Loaned to Crystal Bridges; Early Printing of the Bill of Rights Heads to Auction

  • November 23, 2021 14:42

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A rare copy of the original printing of the U.S. Constitution sold for $43.2 million.

A group of over 17,000 investors who gave to ConstitutionDAO in an effort to purchase a rare document "for the people" were outbid by a private collector.

The cohort crowdfunded in Ethereum cryptocurrency to bid on an extremely rare privately-owned copy of the original printing of the U.S. Constitution offered at Sotheby's New York last Thursday night.

The winning bidder at $43.2 million was hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin who will loan the document to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, for public viewing.

One of the first public printings of the Bill of Rights is part of Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 9-10 Rare Books Signature® Auction.
Heritage Auctions

“The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” said Griffin, the Chicago-based founder and CEO of Citadel, in a statement. “That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces.”

Realizing more than double its $20 million estimate, the Constitution set a world auction record for any book, manuscript, historical document or printed text, according to Sotheby's. The historic document is one of just 13 known copies of the official printing of the Constitution, Sotheby's stated, and one of two in private hands. It was last sold at auction in 1988 for $165,000.

The BBC reports that some crypto investors in the failed bid are saying that they must pay fees of up to half their refund. "Gas" fees to pay for computer systems to facilitate transactions on the Ethereum network vary according to usage, and some of the crypto investors gave small amounts (around $200) that will be eaten up by fees in a refund.

Coming up next month, one of the first public printings of the Bill of Rights will cross the auction block as part of Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 9-10 Rare Books Signature® Auction.

Printed Oct. 3, 1789, in the Gazette of the United States newspaper, the issue includes the complete text of the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution proposed by Congress on Sept. 25, 1789, as part of a joint resolution. On Oct. 2, copies of the proposed amendments were sent to each of the 13 state legislatures for ratification. The following day, the Gazette featured the complete text of each of the proposed amendments.

As history shows, however, the state legislatures ratified only 10 of the 12 proposed amendments, leading to what we now know of as the Bill of Rights.

“This is an interesting and important part of American history,” says James Gannon, Director of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions. “More specifically, it’s an important example of democracy in action.”

The first proposed amendment, concerning the number of congressional representatives per state, was never ratified. And the second one – stating "no law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened" – was eventually ratified in 1992, more than two centuries after it was initially proposed.

Now, this rare printing resonates as a turning point in the country’s history, 232 years after it was published.


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