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Original Copy of US Constitution Sold at Auction

A copy of a national historical treasure was recently sold to a private citizen.

By:  |  December 7, 2021  |    456 Words
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(Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Can a person really buy an original copy of the United States Constitution? Absolutely, if you have enough money and can find one of the two privately owned copies for sale. This rare item sold for a whopping $43.2 million, making it the most expensive book, historical document, or manuscript ever sold. The record had previously been set by Bill Gates when he purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester notebook for $30.8 million in 1994.

Sotheby’s is a company that sells fine art and special objects, and it held the auction. According to a statement from Sotheby’s, the Constitution copy was bought by Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the Citadel investment group. He plans to loan the manuscript to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, as a free public exhibition.

The first printing of the Constitution was in 1787. It was made for the delegates at the Constitutional Convention. There were around 500 copies of the document created by the Founding Fathers, but only 13 exist today. Eleven of those belong to museums and other institutions, making this one of only two that can be acquired by the public. It only took eight minutes to sell.

This isn’t the first time this copy has been purchased, though. Real estate developer and collector S. Howard Goldman bought the document in 1988 for $165,000. Although he died roughly ten years later, it wasn’t until last week that the historical piece made it to the auction. The proceeds went into a charity in Howard’s wife’s name, the Dorothy Tapper Godman Foundation, which is about “furthering the understanding of our democracy and how the acts of all citizens can make a difference,” according to Sotheby’s.

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Constitution on display at Sotheby’s, 2021. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

David Brigham is the chief executive of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the owner of the only other privately owned original copy of the Constitution. When it comes to getting a high dollar sale from such documents, he said, “The monetary value is what the market says it is, but the auction and the interest in it reflects something much deeper – the intrinsic value of the US constitution and the fact that it remains the force that binds this nation together.” Brigham added:

“The earliest written copies of the constitution serve as a reminder of where this country came from and where it can go, and that is priceless. What’s more, it illustrates that even in a digitised world, being able to see and hold a real document from the time of the Constitutional Convention is a powerful thing.”

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