'Van Sinderen Constitution' Could Sell for $30M

Early copy of founding document up for auction for first time since 1894
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2022 9:55 AM CDT
Group Gets Another Chance to Buy Rare Constitution for Public
A rare copy of the US Constitution, to be sold at a Sotheby's auction in New York on Dec. 13.   (Sotheby's)

A group representing some 17,000 people who tried and failed to buy a rare copy of the US Constitution in a huge crowdfunding effort last year says it's "looking into" the upcoming auction of the only other early copy of the document held in private hands. About 500 copies of the Constitution were printed in 1787 for delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but only 13 are known to survive, and just two remain outside institutional or government collections, per NPR. The so-called Goldman Constitution, named for then-owner Dorothy Tapper Goldman, was sold for a record $43.2 million at a Sotheby's auction last November to the billionaire Citadel hedge fund founder Kenneth Griffin, to the chagrin of investor group ConstitutionDAO.

The group had pooled $46 million to buy the six-page document, now on display at Arkansas' Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, for the sake of public access, but it said it couldn't bid more than $40 million due to auction fees and insurance, storage, and transportation costs. Though refunds were offered to the 17,437 contributors, "there is still ether valued at tens of million [of] dollars locked up in the smart contract waiting to be claimed," reports Forbes. A similar effort could see the decentralized autonomous organization seize the so-called Adrian Van Sinderen Constitution, named for its longtime owner and now owned by a descendant, which is hitting the auction block in December for the first time since 1894, Sotheby's said Tuesday.

"It's unusual to get second chances, but this is it," Richard Austin of Sotheby's tells Bloomberg. He adds the document, expected to sell for between $20 million and $30 million, is "in excellent condition," having gone through "a few very minor repairs at some point." Asked if it plans to bid, ConstitutionDAO tells NPR that "we're looking into it." But any bidder is sure to face competitors. "Copies from the first printing have only appeared at auction a handful of times since they were first printed and issued to delegates more than 200 years ago, so the appearance of this copy on the market is truly a special moment," says Selby Kiffer of Sotheby's. The Van Sinderen Constitution will go on public display for the first time in 35 years ahead of the Dec. 13 auction in New York. (More US Constitution stories.)

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