The “extremely rare” first edition of the US Constitution could cost $ 30 million

(CNN) – “Extremely rare” copy of the first edition of the US Constitution will hit the hammer in New York next month, and Sotheby’s auction house is expecting an auction of up to $ 30 million.

Produced before the historic constitutional convention of 1787, it is one of only 13 original printed texts known to have survived – and one of only two that are still in private hands, the auction house said in a press release Tuesday.

The announcement comes less than a year after the only other private copy hit a record $ 43.2 million at an auction. The November sale, which also took place in New York, witnessed a bidding war between hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin and the cryptocurrency group Constitution DAO, which raised the equivalent of over $ 40 million from 17,000 individual investors in what Sotheby called “the most important crowdfunding initiative ever undertaken. “

The group was eventually outbid by Griffin, founder and CEO of the investment firm Citadel, who has since loaned out a document from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. In a press release, Sotheby’s said online sales in 2021 made it the most watched auction in its history.

Richard Austin, global head of Sotheby’s books and manuscripts department, said he hoped the auction next month would generate a “similar response” to the public.

“The unprecedented sales result of the Constitution, which we achieved last November, was a truly unique and inspiring moment – one that not only signifies the exceptional scarcity of the first printed copies of the Constitution available for private property, but also the enduring significance and impact of the Constitution as the ultimate expression of democratic principles,” that have shaped our daily lives more than 200 years since we first wrote it, ”he said in a press statement.

Drafted in a series of secret meetings chaired by George Washington, the US Constitution was written to replace earlier articles of the Confederation. About 500 printed copies of the final text were distributed to delegates prior to the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787. The constitution was ratified by most states the following year and entered into force in 1789.

Of the others known to have survived the first editions, 11 are in institutional and government collections, including those of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the New Jersey State Archives, and the Library of Congress.

The copy put up for sale in December has not been seen at auction in over 125 years, according to Sotheby’s, who described the item as “extremely rare.” Sold from the collection of Georgia lawyer and politician Charles Colcock Jones in 1894, it was acquired as a gift to businessman and collector Adrian Van Sinderen and has been in private hands ever since. The item has not been displayed to the public since the Stanford University exhibition 35 years ago.

Selby Kiffer, Sotheby’s International Senior Book and Manuscript Specialist, described the return to the market as “a special moment.”

“While the enduring significance and significance of the Constitution is often a subject of debate today, the fact remains that it is by far the most important document in US history and one that will continue to influence the future of democratic principles in America and around the world. the world, “he said in a statement.

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