Sotheby’s is set to auction a key document related to the U.S. Constitution

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If you’re feeling especially patriotic this July 4th and you have a few million dollars left over, here’s a thought: You can start making plans to bid for a rare piece of American history later this month.

Sotheby’s will auction off a copy of Virginia’s official ratification of the U.S. Constitution, along with two sets of proposed amendments, in total, a 13-page document of June 25, 1788, which was instrumental in establishing the federal government to know today.

It is one of three copies of the document that are believed to still exist. The Sotheby’s auction is scheduled for July 21 in New York City, with a preview period of July 12-20. Officials at the venerable auction house have set a pre-sale estimate of the document at $ 3 to $ 5 million.

Selby Kiffer, a senior specialist in Sotheby’s books and manuscripts department, told MarketWatch that the article is among “the top tier of what might be called founding documents.”

Each of the original 13 states was tasked with ratifying the proposed constitution. By virtue of its prominent place among those original states, Virginia was instrumental in the process, said John Kaminski, director of the Center for the Study of the American Constitution at the University of Wisconsin.

“Virginia ratification is a kind of springboard for ratification of the Constitution,” Kaminski told MarketWatch.

What also makes the document so significant, Kiffer and Kaminski said, is that one of Virginia’s sets of amendments is a “Bill of Rights,” which describes such essential concepts as the right to freedom of expression. to a “fair and speedy trial.” by an impartial jury ”and to have and carry weapons. In fact, it formed the basis of the Federal Bill of Rights.

The auction takes place at a time when there is a growing interest in American historical documents, Kiffer said. Perhaps the most notable example was the sale of $ 43.2 million last year, through Sotheby’s, of a copy of the first edition of the U.S. Constitution itself.

Kiffer said a number of factors are driving interest in key American documents, starting with the growing interest in collectibles of all kinds in recent years. (For that, rare baseball cards and comics have been in vogue lately.) But he notes that the rampant success of the Broadway show “Hamilton” has also sparked interest in anything related to the first period. of the history of the United States.

“The musical brought the story to life for a lot of people,” Kiffer said.

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