Copy of US Constitution costs $ 41 million at auction in New York


The first printed edition of the US Constitution sold at Sotheby’s New York for $ 41 million (£ 30.4 million). Image credit: Ardon Bar-Hama.

After an eight-minute auction battle, the highest price ever for a book, manuscript or printed text at auction was reached at Sotheby’s in New York (November 18).

Between two contemporary art sales, the auction house sold the rare first edition printed copy of the Constitution of the United States for a hammer price of $ 41million (£ 30.4million) or $ 43.2 million including fees.

As adopted by America’s Founding Fathers at a convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the document is one of 13 known copies of the official print produced for delegates to the Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress , and only two copies of the first printing of the Constitution which remain in private hands.

It had been estimated between 15 and 20 million dollars and the lot was underbid by a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts called ConstitionDAO. The group, of more than 17,000 people, had funded the online offer tvia social networks within a week.

Public display

Billionaire hedge funds Kenneth Griffin, founder and CEO of US investment firm Citadel, announced he was the buyer of the document following the sale. He agreed to loan it to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American art in Arkansas for public display.

Griffin said, “I intend to make this copy of our Constitution available to all Americans and visitors to view and enjoy in our museums and other public spaces. I am delighted that the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which still offers free admission, is the first venue to showcase our country’s founding document.

The document last sold for $ 165,000 in 1988, when it was acquired by the late New York real estate developer S Howard Goldman, who died in 1997.

His widow, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, is offering it for sale alongside 80 other items from their collection. Proceeds from the sale of the constitution will go to the Goldman Charitable Foundation.

Another group of works from the Goldman collection will be offered online from November 23 to December 2 at Sotheby’s.

The previous auction record for a printed work was fixed when American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein paid $ 12.5million (£ 8.1million) – $ 14.2million with bounty – at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013 for the Bay Psalm Book – the first book printed in what is now the United States.

The previous auction record for any historical document was $ 21.3 million (including premium) for the 1297 Magna Carta sold at Sotheby’s in 2007, while the The previous auction record for a book and a manuscript was $ 30.8 million (including premium) for The Codex Leicester sold at Christie’s in 1994.

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