Rare US Constitution copy up for auction expected to fetch $15M

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The copy is one of the 11 surviving copies of the original printing of the Constitution.

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A rare copy of the US Constitution is going up for auction.

Sotheby’s announced on Friday, which also happens to be Constitution Day, that a copy of the US Constitution is going up for auction in November.

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The document is one of 11 surviving copies of the official first printing of the Constitution, which was produced for delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress.

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“This is the final text,” Selby Kiefer, an international senior expert in Sotheby’s Department of Books and Manuscripts, told the Associated Press. “The debate over what the Constitution would say had ended with this document. The debate about whether the Constitution was being adopted was just the beginning.”

“It was the Constitution, but it didn’t take effect until it was debated and ratified,” Kiefer said. “So that was the first step in the process of living under this 234-year-old document we now have.”

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Kiefer estimated that originally several hundred copies of the constitution were made.

The only copy that goes up for auction in November is privately owned and coming from the collection of Dorothy Tapper. This document is expected to bring in $15 million to $20 million.

This is the second time that Kiefer is leading the auction of this copy of the Constitution. In 1988, he led its auction, when it sold for only $165,000.

“Although it’s many years later and I’ve handled a lot of great things and I’m more experienced, I must say it’s just as exciting, if not a little more exciting, then the second time around,” he told the AP.

Ella Hall, a specialist in books and manuscripts at Sotheby's, New York, holds a 1787 printed copy of the US Constitution in her display case.  It is the only copy that remains in private hands and is estimated at $15 million–$20 million.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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The copy is one of 80 constitutional and related documents that are going up for auction in November.

Proceeds from the sale of the collection will benefit the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing the understanding of American democracy and how the actions of all citizens can make a difference.

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The copy is on public view at Sotheby’s York Avenue Gallery until Sunday, when it will travel to Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas before returning to New York for auction.

Kiefer said, “It would have belonged to either a member of the Continental Congress or one of the delegates to the Continental Convention. Those were the only people who had access to this first printing.” “Your eye immediately turns to that first line, ‘We the people of the United States of America.’”


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