Rare First Edition U.S. Constitution Sells For Record Price After Hedge Fund CEO Outbids Cryptocurrency Group

Rare First Edition U.S. Constitution Sells For Record Price After Hedge Fund CEO Outbids Cryptocurrency Group

By Terri Jo Neff |

One of the last 500 first-edition copies of the U.S. Constitution printed in 1787 was sold at auction Thursday night in New York, shattering estimates put forth by experts who had placed the historic document’s value at $20 million.

The “Goldman’s Constitution” as the copy is known is one of only 13 originals believed to still exist. It was purchased by real estate developer S. Howard Goldman in 1988 for $165,000 and most recently belonged to the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, which owns dozens of rare historical documents from America’s Colonial and Revolutionary eras.  

Earlier this month it was announced that ConstitutionDAO, a Ethereum-based cryptocurrency group, would be bidding for the document. Leading up to the auction, the group publicized its desire to find a partner ensure the Constitution would be displayed in a way that made it accessible to the public.

Last week ConstitutionDAO claimed it had already raised $32 million via crowdfunding, which many experts believed would ensure the group was top bidder. But that honor went instead to Ken Griffin, the billionaire CEO of Chicago-based Citadel LLC, a hedge fund. His bid was $41 million ($43.2 million with fees).

The entire bidding took less than 15 minutes. Not only was Griffin’s bid the highest ever for a copy of the U.S. Constitution, but Sotheby’s says it is the top price ever paid for a printed historical document.

Griffin, 53, announced that his copy of the U.S. Constitution will be loaned to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum’s permanent collection features American art from the Colonial era to the contemporary period.

There are some questions as to why the cryptocurrency group was unable to exceed Griffin’s bid, given that some insiders reported ConstitutionDAO, which stands for Decentralised Autonomous Organisation, had in fact raised $47 million by the start of bidding.  Refunds will be issued to the nearly 17,500 individual donors, according to the group, which took looked on the positive side of its endeavor.  

“This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of—crypto or fiat,” according to the group’s website. “We are so incredibly grateful to have done this together with you all and are still in shock that we even got this far.”

The group also noted Thursday’s auction was the first time Sotheby’s worked with a DAO community.

“We have educated an entire cohort of people around the world – from museum curators and art directors to our grandmothers asking us what eth is when they read about us in the news – about the possibilities of web3,” the statement reads. “And, on the flip side, many of you have learned about what it means to steward an asset like the U.S. constitution across museums and collections, or watched an art auction for the first time.”