Rare copy of US Constitution to be auctioned in New York

Rare copy of US Constitution to be auctioned in New York

A rare copy of the US Constitution is set to be auctioned off later this year by Sotheby’s.

The auction house announced on Friday — appropriately Constitution Day — that the document will go up for auction in November.

It is one of just 11 surviving copies of the document from the official first printing produced for delegates at the Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress.

Created during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, it is also the only copy that remains in private hands and holds an estimated value of between $15m and $20m.

“This is the final text. The debate on what the Constitution would say was over with this document. The debate about whether the Constitution was going to be adopted was just beginning,” Selby Kiffer, an international senior specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, told the Associated Press.

“This was the Constitution, but it didn’t take effect until it had been debated and ratified. So this was the first step in the process of us living now under this 234-year-old document,” he added.

The document will be part of a collection of about 80 constitutional and related documents up for auction in the autumn.

Before then, the copy of the Constitution is on public view at Sotheby’s Manhattan galleries on York Avenue until 19 September. It will then be displayed in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas, before returning to New York ahead of the auction.

This is Mr Kiffer’s second time handling the rare document. He also spearheaded its auction in 1988 when it sold for just $165,000.

“While it’s a lot of years later and I’ve handled a lot of great things and I’m more experienced, I have to say it’s just as exciting, if not a little bit more exciting, the second time around,” he said.

The document from the collection of Dorothy Tapper Goldman. Proceeds from the sale of the collection will benefit The Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, which is dedicated to furthering the understanding of US democracy and how the acts of all citizens can make a difference, according to a statement by Sotheby’s.

As to its original owner, Mr Kiffer says: “It would have belonged to either a member of the Continental Congress or to one of the delegates to the Continental Convention. Those were the only people who had access to this first printing.”

It is estimated that several hundred copies were originally printed in those early days of the founding of the US.

“Your eye is immediately drawn to that first line, ‘We the people of the United States’,” says Mr Kiffer. The document also includes the Convention’s accompanying resolutions and its letter, over the name of George Washington, to Congress submitting the Constitution for consideration.

The first printing of the Constitution is considerably rarer than the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the few documents in history to which it can be compared in terms of significance and influence.

With reporting by The Associated Press


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