Philanthropist to Sell Rare Copy of Constitution for $15 M. at Auction

Philanthropist to Sell Rare Copy of Constitution for $15 M. at Auction

New York–based philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman is selling a rare copy of the Constitution at auction this fall. The document is one of 11 surviving first copies of the founding document. It is the only version that remains in private hands.

In November, the copy will be sold at Sotheby’s during a New York modern and contemporary art evening sale, where it is expected to fetch $15 million–$20 million. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the owner’s namesake foundation, which promotes educational causes related to Constitutional history.

Goldman has held onto the copy since 1997, when she inherited it after the death of her husband, Harry Goldman. Harry purchased it in 1988 at Sotheby’s for $165,000, when it was sold by a collector from Philadelphia.

In a statement, Selby Kiffer, Sotheby’s international senior specialist in books and manuscripts, called the copy “one of the most rare and coveted historical documents that has ever come to auction.”

“I handled the sale of this very document in 1988,” he said. “I have kept my eye on it ever since, and it is very exciting to see it return to the rooms more than three decades later.”

Goldman said in a statement that owning the copy prompted her to begin collecting other rare historical documents and showcasing them throughout the country. Before Harry’s death, he loaned the copy to the Supreme Court for a year to coincide with the 1987 bicentennial of the Constitution’s ratification. “When it passed to me, I felt an incredible sense of responsibility to care for it, to share it, and to promote our nation’s Constitutional principles,” Goldman said.

The 1787 edition is the final text of the Constitution printed for submission to the Continental Congress. Nearly 500 copies were printed, only 11 of which are believed to still exist.

Last June, Sotheby’s revamped its sale format in the aftermath of the pandemic. As part of the change, the house began to offer ultra-valuable works from other historical categories in the main evening sales dedicated to modern and contemporary works.

Some 80 more historical documents owned by Goldman will be placed in a New York sale in November. Another group of rare works from the philanthropists’ private collection will be auctioned in an online sale that will run November 23–December 2. Starting this month, the copy of the Constitution will go on view in Los Angeles. After that, it will travel to Chicago and Dallas before returning to New York this fall.

The copy is the only version of its kind still in private hands.