Rare Print of U.S. Constitution Sells for $43M, Shatters Record Set By da Vinci Book

An original printing of the U.S. Constitution sold for $43.2 million at Sotheby's, breaking the record for the highest amount paid for a document or book at auction.

The anonymous user outbid a collective of 17,000 cryptocurrency investors during the auction. The document is one of only 13 known copies of the Constitution that have survived from its signing in 1787, and its purchase breaks a previous record held by Bill Gates. In 1994, the billionaire purchased Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester for $30.8 million.

"Tonight's sale of this exceptionally rare and important printing of the Constitution was a monumental and historic occasion," Selby Kiffer, Sotheby's senior international specialist for books and manuscripts, said in a statement.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds another original copy of the document. Its chief executive, David Brigham, spoke to The Guardian about the sale's significance.

"The monetary value is what the market says it is," he explained, "but this auction and the interest in it reflects something much deeper – the intrinsic value of the US Constitution and the fact that it remains the force that binds this nation together."

Although the winner has not been identified, its underbidder has. ConstitutionDAO, an organization that planned to raise the money to bid on the Constitution, released a statement about their loss. However, they took it in stride and felt confident that more DAOs will follow suit.

"While this wasn't the outcome we hoped for," they said, "we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO. This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of-–crypto or fiat."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The screen shows the bidding price of a first printing of the United States Constitution during an auction at Sotheby's auction house in New York on November 18, 2021. - The extremely rare original copy of the US constitution was sold for $43 million--a world record for a historical document at auction, Sotheby's said. Photo by Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

The sold copy was one of only two in private hands.

This printing of the Constitution was last sold in 1988 when real estate developer and collector S. Howard Goldman bought it at auction for $165,000.

Proceeds from Thursday's sale will benefit a foundation established by Goldman's widow, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, to further the understanding of constitutional principles.

Kiffer said the auction result reflects how relevant the Constitution remains, "not only in America but for global democracy."

DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization, a type of community-run business that operates on the blockchain.

ConstitutionDAO tweeted Thursday night, "We showed the world what crypto and web3, onboarding thousands of people in the process, including museum curators and art directors who are now excited to keep learning."

A rare copy of the U.S. Constitution sold November 18 for a record $43.2 million at Sotheby's to an anonymous buyer who outbid a group of cryptocurrency investors. Above, the now-sold printing of the United States Constitution is displayed at Sotheby's auction house during a press preview on November 5, 2021, in New York. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File