A Sotheby’s sale of a rare copy of the Constitution of the United States was suddenly postponed yesterday morning, just hours before the auction was to take place.
“The sale of the Official Edition of the Constitution has been postponed, following consultation with the consignor, to provide interested institutional parties with additional time to pursue fundraising efforts for a possible acquisition,” a Sotheby’s spokesperson wrote to ARTnews over email.
It is unclear at this point whether the document will be sold at auction at a later date or in a private sale. The uncertainty was acutely felt by the crypto group ConstitutionDAO 2, which has been making attempts to buy the document.
When a rare first printing of the Constitution went up for auction at Sotheby’s last year, a small crypto community under the name of ConstitutionDAO made international headlines as its members raised more than $40 million to buy the document. That amount was more than its $15 million estimate, but it did little to keep Ken Griffin, a conservative donor and the founder of the hedge fund Citadel, from purchasing the document for $43 million.
Upon hearing that another, rare printing of the Constitution was going to be sold this year, another crypto fundraising group formed under the name ConstitutionDAO 2.
Despite the fact that the crypto market is not what it was last year, people like Matt Wyatt, one of the people behind ConstitutionDAO 2, thought that it was important for the crypto community to show up for this auction.
“We wanted to show that we still care about this democratizing tech and to show how far we’ve come,” said Wyatt in an interview with ARTnews. “We want to show people that we’re serious and committed.”
Previously, when the DAO was fundraising, they came up against two big issues. The first was that public-facing quality of the DAO: competing buyers knew how much the group had raised because all that information was logged on the blockchain. The second was figuring out how to distribute refunds. Because of so-called “gas fees,” the price it takes to initiate a transaction on blockchain, those who wanted to get their refunds would have to pay exorbitant amounts just to get their crypto transferred back to them.
This time around, Wyatt said, these issues have been resolved. Publicly, the DAO has fundraised $313,000 worth of crypto, but Wyatt also claimed he had a reserve of private funds to draw from.
As the sale is postponed however, it seems unlikely that the DAO will get their hands on the copy of the Constitution being offered by Sotheby’s. However, a rare documents expert and dealer, Seth Kaller, who has been working with the DAO recently, has sourced another rare copy of the Constitution that the DAO might buy instead.
“What’s exciting is that we’ve actually had a historical documents expert come in and present us with an opportunity to buy a different copy of the Constitution,” said Wyatt. “It’s a copy off the same printing press that was used to print the copy that we were going to bid on, but this one is significantly more capital efficient and more effective for presentations.”
Whether or not the raised funds are going to be used to buy this copy instead will have to be agreed upon in a vote, powered by decentralized tech, of course.