1 of 11 Surviving Original Copies of the Constitution to be Auctioned off by Sotheby’s

The American Constitution on American Flag

One of 11 surviving copies of the Constitution is set to be put up for auction on November 23 and estimates suggest that the historic document could sell for upwards of 15 million dollars.

The document will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s which is “the world’s largest, most trusted and dynamic marketplace for art and luxury,” according to the company’s official website. The copy of the Constitution, as well as other related documents pertaining to the early history of the United States, are from the collection of Dorothy Tapper. Proceeds of the auction will go to The Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation. The Tapper copy of the Constitution is the only copy under private ownership and is estimated to sell for $15-$20 million dollars.

Selby Kiffer, an international senior specialist of the Books and Manuscripts Department at Sotheby’s explained the historical significance of the document to the Associated Press. “This is the final text. The debate on what the Constitution would say was over with this document. The debate about whether the Constitution was going to be adopted was just beginning,” Kiffer explained. 

“This was the Constitution, but it didn’t take effect until it had been debated and ratified. So this was the first step in the process of us living now under this 234-year-old document,” he continued. 

Kiffer previously handled the document the last time it was up for auction back in 1988, when it sold for a mere $165,000 dollars. He explained, “while it’s a lot of years later and I’ve handled a lot of great things and I’m more experienced, I have to say it’s just as exciting, if not a little bit more exciting, the second time around.”

Under the announcement on Sotheby’s website, the business details what will be up for auction from the Tapper collection in addition to the surviving copy of the Constitution:

Our live sale of Part 1 of the Collection, November 23, will focus on the foment that led to American Independence and Confederation and the writings that influenced the framers of the Constitution and those who fought for its ratification. These select lots will include official printings of the Stamp Act and other Parliamentary legislation that the colonists found “intolerable”; an early printing of the Articles of Confederation, the first, and highly ineffective, federal charter; the first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence; an oath of allegiance to the United States (and of dis-allegiance to George III) signed at Valley Forge by Trench Tilghman, aide-de-camp to George Washington; a rare thick-paper copy of the first edition of The Federalist, which collected the pseudonymous essays written in support of ratification by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay; and the House of Representative draft of the Bill of Rights, which included seventeen amendments.

Established in 1774, Sotheby’s holds more than 600 auctions each year. Products include fine art from various eras and countries, wine and spirits, jewelry, and other rare objects.


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