First-Edition Copy of US Constitution Sells for Over $40 Million

By Jonathan Walker | November 21, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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A copy of the Constitution was bought by billionaire Ken Griffin.
A copy of the Constitution was bought by billionaire Ken Griffin. (Image: wynpnt via Pixabay)

The U.S. constitution is well over 200 years old. A rare first edition copy of the constitution was recently put up for auction at Sotheby’s and sold for $43.2 million. The auction was won by Ken Griffin, the billionaire CEO of the hedge fund Citadel. He outbid a group of cryptocurrency investors.

Earlier, the crypto group had crowdfunded over $40 million through social media for the auction. However, it still ended up losing to Griffin after an eight-minute bidding war over the phone. The copy was only projected to sell at $20 million. Its sales value of $43.2 million is double the estimate and made the most money bid on any document.

The last time the copy was sold was in 1988, where it went for $165,000. This is one of the thirteen copies of the official constitution that currently exists; it’s one of the two that is not held in institutional collections like Princeton University or the Library of Congress. Griffin plans to lend a piece of the copy to an art museum in Arkansas.

“The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be… That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces,” Griffin said in a statement.

The billionaire has a taste for buying expensive collectibles. Last year, Griffin spent $100 million to buy a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He also owns art by Jackson Pollock and Paul Cezanne. Griffin is a staunch Republican and contributed over $67 million for Republican causes and candidates in the 2020 election cycle.

According to Kenneth Rendell, a dealer from Boston specializing in historic documents, people at the time of writing the constitution were likely not aware of collector’s items. Though they must have realized that the Declaration of Independence would become iconic, people likely wouldn’t have thought about the future status of the constitution itself.

“People knew they should probably save the Declaration, but it took a while before this constitutional framework affected ordinary people… Of course now everyone is running to the Constitution for protection and all our biggest issues feel like constitutional questions,” Rendell told the WSJ. The Boston dealer admitted that he never expected the copy to be bought for more than $25 million.

Although the crypto investor group did not win the auction, it said that “we still made history tonight.” 17,437 individuals had donated to the group. They were promised $PEOPLE tokens that will allow them to vote on whether the copy of the Constitution would be displayed.

“We have educated an entire cohort of people around the world — from museum curators and art directors to our grandmothers asking us what ETH (cryptocurrency) is when they read about us in the news,” the group stated. Now that the group has lost the auction, the funds will have to be redistributed back to the donors.