$43 Million! Copy of US Constitution Lost in Auction

A group of cryptocurrency investors who raised $47 million in pledges to bid for a unique copy of the US Constitution lost out to a buyer with deeper pockets.

According to the group, ConstitutionDAO, they did not win the auction at Sotheby’s tonight, which sold for a total of $43.2 million.

If the DAO’s organizers had made a higher offer, they thought they wouldn’t have enough money “to insure, store, and transport” the document.

Last week, a group calling itself the “Ether Museum” formed on Twitter. The group was established after it appeared to be a great joke for a bunch of randos on the internet to buy an important historical item.

They were able to gather enough attention to raise over $500,000 in Ether. The organizers promise that everyone who contributed will get their money back, minus any Ethereum network charges.

“While this wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO,” the organizers wrote in an update.

“This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of—crypto or fiat. We are so incredibly grateful to have done this together with you all and are still in shock that we even got this far.”

The bidding procedure, which should have been a thrilling and memorable moment for the thousands of contributors who stayed online to watch, instead turned into a chaotic and dirty occasion.

Representatives made bids in person on behalf of potential buyers via voicemail. Bidding quickly rose to $30 million, then ticked up million by million over the next minutes as two representatives spoke with the final pair of possible purchasers by phone.

However, no one knew who was bidding on behalf of ConstitutionDAO. People flooded the group’s Discord with speculations about which of the two representatives was representing them.

Even after the auction ended, no one knew who had won, and conflicting information leaked via tweets and Twitter Spaces.

After bidding ended, ConstitutionDAO organizers posted an official statement stating that they had not won the bid more than 10 minutes later.

Despite the fact that they lost, the DAO’s capacity to raise so much money so quickly, inspire thousands, and push the price up against another wealthy organization is yet another example of individuals organizing at a large scale online.

We’ve seen consumers pool their resources before to fight against bigger interests – though not always in successful or cohesive ways – as evidenced by when a group of Redditors boosted GameStop stock and a pair of other firms by hundreds of percentage points in early 2021.

The DAO intended to vote on the document’s future based on governance tokens passed out to contributors and dispersed through the Ethereum blockchain if it had succeeded. The DAO will have to deal with another practical problem in its wake: returning $47 million in Ether and dissolving what was, for a brief period of time, a multi-million dollar organization.