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Rare copy of US Constitution could fetch $ 20 million at Sotheby’s

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Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

An exceptionally rare first edition of the US Constitution is on sale in New York, with auction house Sotheby’s expecting auctions of up to $ 20 million.

This is one of 11 surviving copies – and the last in private hands – of the first printing of the final text of the document, produced for the delegates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the Continental Congress.

Written at secret meetings in Philadelphia, the US Constitution laid the foundation for American democracy and guaranteed the basic rights of citizens. After the production of two earlier drafts, the official printers of the Constitutional Convention created 500 copies of a final “official edition” and distributed them to delegates, according to Sotheby’s.

The text auctioned in November is owned by collector and philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman. It was originally acquired by her late husband, Howard, and had been “one of (her) most cherished possessions,” Goldman said in a statement.

A Sotheby’s expert presents a page of the first printing of the United States Constitution, which goes on sale in November. Credit: ED JONES / AFP / Getty Images

“When this happened to me, I felt an incredible sense of responsibility to take care of her, to share her and to promote the constitutional principles of our nation,” she added.

In a press release, Sotheby’s described the document as “rarer than the first impression of the Declaration of Independence.” The auction house’s senior books and manuscript specialist, Selby Kiffer, meanwhile said the object was “one of the rarest and most coveted historical documents” ever to be auctioned.

Kiffer also oversaw the sale of the document in 1988 to the Goldmans, who bought it for $ 165,000 from a private collector in Philadelphia. In the years that followed, it was on loan to institutions such as the New York Historical Society and the United States Supreme Court, among others. The other 10 surviving copies of the first impression are now all kept in institutional collections, Sotheby’s said.

The document is part of a larger sale of historic American documents from the Goldman collection, which includes a first copy of the Articles of Confederation, as well as an official Stamp Act print.

Related Video: How Do Auctions Actually Work?

Other rare copies of the US Constitution are included in the sale, such as editions signed by Presidents Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. The two-part auction will also feature a range of state constitutions, with at least one constitution from each U.S. state for sale.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, an organization dedicated to “promoting understanding of our democracy and how the actions of all citizens can make a difference,” according to a press release.

Prior to the sale, the constitution of the first edition will be on display in various locations across the United States, starting with Sotheby’s galleries in New York, before moving to Chicago and Dallas.

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