Auction Results

Founding documents still worth millions say US buyers


Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Three copies of the founding documents of the United States have sold at auction for $5.58 million.

As the ideas contained in them are much discussed in election year, buyers decided that concrete, physical copies of those documents still have value.

A copy of the Declaration of Independence realised $3.36 million.

It was printed in broadsheet format in the New York Journal on July 11, 1776 by John Holt.

This newspaper copy of the Constitution was a way to widen debate among America’s people.

It is the only known copy in private hands of five known to survive.

Sotheby’s, who hosted the sale, said: “John Holt’s printing was conceived and executed with an intentionality and understanding of the significance of the moment uncommon in other newspaper printings.”

A first printing of the US Constitution, in a 4-page folio newspaper issue realised $1,020,000.

It was printed by John Dunlap, a major figure in early printing in America, and published in the Pennslyvania Packet.

Only 30 copies of this printing have ever been located. Most are in permanent public collections, with perhaps as many as five available for sale.

Finally, a copy of the The Bill of Rights, the first and most important collection of amendments to the constitution, was a sold for $1.2 million.

This document was a new discovery and is believed to be a unique survivor of 100 copies printed to allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to examine the document as they debated it.

It was found in the collection of a private collector, J. Robert Maguire.

Early constitutional documents from the US are enormously valuable.

Investor Kenneth Griffin fought hard to win a bidding battle for a first-edition copy of the US Constitution in November 2021.

He paid $43.2 million and set a world record for any printed text, book or document. There are only 13 known original copies of the first edition of the constitution and only 2 are in private hands.

Declarations of Independence are less rare. A copy was sold at auction for nearly $4.5 million in 2021.

An election year is a good time to sell. The US’s founding principles and mechanisms of government are subject to increased debate during campaigns.

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