Crypto Investors Lost a $43-Million Auction of a Rare US Constitution Copy

It was the largest crowd-funding initiative ever.
Derya Ozdemir

The hopes of one of the largest collective bids of internet history were dashed Thursday when a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution sold for $43.2 million at Sotheby’s, according to a press release. The winner remains unknown, and the internet collective called Constitution DAO, which openly announced its interest and raised more than $47 million, has acknowledged it wasn’t the buyer. 

The Constitution sold is one of 13 copies in existence from a printing made for the 1787 Constitutional Convention. In fact, to make it even more precious, it's one of only two privately owned copies.

The price was a record for a printed text, according to auction house Sotheby's, and it's unclear why ConstitutionDAO' was outbid at that price, given that its crowd-funding campaign had raised more than $47 million.

Constitution DAO had hoped to place it in a museum or another public home; however, following the loss, it said on Twitter, "Community: We did not win the bid," ConstitutionDAO said on Twitter, promising its 17,437 contributors a refund minus transaction fees.

A new-age experiment in governance

To understand ConstitutionDAO, you have to know what DAO is first. A DAO, or a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a type of online community that uses blockchain technology to empower members to make and vote on operational decisions. People can invest in the DAO with cryptocurrency in exchange for tokens, which gives them voting power over what the DAO invests in, and when it cashes out, and with more tokens, they gain more power.  

Since DAOs can be called a new-age experiment in governance, as reported by Forbes, a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution was especially appealing to the group. The group’s organizers, who have revealed their identities at this point, first met a week ago and set a goal of $20 million, the high end of what Sotheby’s had originally estimated the document could fetch. Then, they began soliciting donations on Sunday, orchestrating a word-of-mouth campaign through Twitter and other social media. And, according to The Verge, it raised more than 47 million, but in the end, it failed to deliver its promise.

"While this wasn't the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO. This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware off—crypto or fiat," it said on Twitter. 

More recently, an NFT collector group, PleasrDAO, bought a different high-profile item for $4 million last month, the one-of-a-kind digital Wu Tang album originally purchased by pharmaceutical tycoon Martin Shkreli.

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