Sotheby’s to auction rare first printing of U.S. Constitution

New York, September 20 (BNA) The auction house said that a very rare official printed copy of the US Constitution will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in mid-November.

When announcing the upcoming sale of the document on the 234th anniversary of its signing by delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Sotheby’s estimated its value at $15 million to $20 million.

“It is the official edition, the first printing of the final text of the Constitution of the United States probably done on the evening of September 16, 1787, solely for the use of delegates to the Continental Congress and for the use of the United States Congress. The United States’ chief specialist at Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Selby Keefer said.”

“This is the only one who is not in a permanent institutional group.”

It last sold for $165,000 in 1988, when it was bought by the late S. Howard Goldman, a New York real estate developer and private collector of American autographs, historical documents and manuscripts.

The auction house said his wife, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, is offering it for sale, with all proceeds going to the charity founded in her name to advance the public’s understanding of democracy.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were provided with copies of that first edition, without any signatures and believed to have originally been around 500. Two copies are found in the Library of Congress.

Sotheby’s said the first edition of the Constitution is significantly rarer than even the first edition of the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

It contains only the original seven articles that outline the framework and powers of the US national government, its relationship to the states, and the procedures used later to ratify and amend the Constitution itself.

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The Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten amendments added to the Constitution, didn’t come out until 1791.

Although the six-page document is not signed, it includes a list of Constitutional Convention delegates certifying its adoption in 1787 and a letter of introduction from George Washington, who presided over the convention.

As the world’s oldest codified and continuing government charter, the United States Constitution was designed to replace the young and largely ineffective charter of the young nation, the Articles of Confederation.

It was ratified by the states in 1788 and entered into force the following year. It has since been modified 27 times.

Sotheby’s said the Goldman version will be up for auction at an event in New York sometime in November.

“There have been heated discussions about whether or not it should be ratified,” Kiefer said. “And these discussions continue today. It is the founding document that will continue, I believe, beyond the current political atmosphere.”


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