NEW YORK (AP) – A very special birth certificate will be auctioned off later this year – a rare copy of the US Constitution.
Sotheby’s announced Friday – appropriately on Constitution Day – that in November it will put up for auction one of just 11 surviving copies of the Constitution from the official first printing produced for delegates to the Constitutional Convention and the Continental Congress. It is the only copy that remains in private hands and is estimated at $15 million–$20 million.
“This is the final text. The debate over what the Constitution would say had ended with this document. The debate had just begun about whether the Constitution was being adopted,” said an international senior expert at Sotheby’s Department of Books and Manuscripts Selby Kiefer told The Associated Press.
“It was the Constitution, but it didn’t take effect until it was debated and ratified. So it was the first step in the process of living under this 234-year-old document we now live under.”
It will comprise of around 80 constitutional and related documents up for auction by the venerable House. A copy of the Constitution is on public view at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries until September 19 and then travels to Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas before returning to New York this fall.
This is Kiefer’s second time handling the rare document. He also led its auction in 1988. At the time, it had gone 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 said.
The document is from Dorothy Tapper’s collection and 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.
“It would have been either a member of the Continental Congress or one of the delegates to the Continental Conference. Those were the only people who had access to this first printing,” Kiefer said, estimating that the original made several hundred copies. She had gone “Your eye immediately turns to that first line, ‘We the people of the United States of America.'”