The Margin: Crypto group raises over $40 million to bid on rare copy of the U.S. Constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … can join this group of crypto investors in bidding on a first-edition copy of the U.S. Constitution. 

Sotheby’s is auctioning one of the 13 copies of the Official Edition of the Constitution that has survived from a 1787 printing of 500, which was given to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention to ratify the document that established America’s government and fundamental laws. Sotheby’s has estimated the value of this rare, historic document at $15 million to $20 million, although it could certainly sell for more. 

The auction goes live at 6:30 pm. ET on Thursday. And a collective of cryptocurrency investors calling itself ConstitutionDAO (the latter acronym stands for “decentralized autonomous organization”) wants to buy this last privately-owned copy of the founding document of the Constitution, and put it on public display. 

A DAO (which is pronounced “dow”) is like an online co-op “governed with cryptocurrency tokens and blockchain-based ‘smart contracts’ instead of traditional corporate boards and bylaws,” the New York Times explains. Crypto is used to buy blockchain-based “tokens,” and the more tokens a person has, the more voting power they have in the group.

Last spring, for example, a collective of anonymous investors called PleasrDAO pooled $5.4 million on the Edward Snowden “Stay Free” NFT, a piece of art that featured a portrait of the NSA whistleblower’s face made from pages of the U.S. appeals court decision that ruled the massive surveillance program he had exposed had violated U.S. law.

ConstitutionDAO is inviting the public to join in their bid — using cryptocurrency, of course. All of the money is being raised in Ether, and the group is working with a crypto exchange that will convert the Ether to dollars before the bid. It’s tapping a crypto nonprofit to place the bid on the group’s behalf. 

It had raised more than $40 million as of Thursday morning. 

“We intend to put the Constitution in the hands of The People,” the collective writes on its site. It’s seeking an “esteemed partner” to publicly display the historic document, which has the expertise to “properly house, store and maintain the artifact.” The group would strongly prefer an institution that is free to the public, it adds, and one that is willing to cover the costs associated with storing and displaying this copy of the Constitution. 

If the ConstitutionDOA does win the artifact, it notes that the donors will not own a fractional share of the document. But they will receive a “governance token” that allows them to advise on where and how the document is displayed. Instead, a limited liability corporation will take control the artifact on a temporary basis until the DAO comes up with a long-term ownership strategy. 

If the ConstitutionDOA is outbid, however, then participants will get their money back — well, except for some transfer fees. 

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