The Margin: Have $20-million plus to spare? You could buy a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution


Have a spare $20 million or so to spend? You might be able to buy an incredibly rare piece of American history.

Sotheby’s will be auctioning off an “official first printing” of the U.S. Constitution — one of 13 such copies known to exist — on Dec. 13, officials with the auction house announced earlier this week. The pre-sale estimate for the item is $20 million to $30 million, which Sotheby’s said is “the most significant estimate ever placed on a historical document” that’s come to auction.

Sotheby’s said the copy of the Constitution for sale is one of only two available for private ownership. The other privately held copy, known as the Goldman Constitution, was last sold in November 2021, with billionaire investor Ken Griffin acquiring for it $43.2 million. That set a new record for any historical document, manuscript or printed text sold at auction, according to Sotheby’s. Griffin had competition in the bidding from a crypto collective known as ConstitutionDAO.

The remaining 11 copies of the Constitution are held in institutional or government collections, according to Sotheby’s. 

Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, said the 2021 sale sparked incredible interest, and that it will hopefully “inspire a similar response” in the new auction. But ultimately, Austin said any interest speaks to the power of the document itself. 

The Constitution is “the ultimate expression of the democratic principles that inform our daily lives more than 200 years since it was first written,” Austin said.

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