A group of cryptocurrency investors has failed to win a rare copy of the US Constitution despite pooling $46 million toward that goal in what Artnet News calls "the largest crowdfunding initiative of all time." An anonymous private collector purchased the first-edition copy of the Constitution, one of 13 existing originals, for $43.2 million—more than twice the $20 million estimate—at a Sotheby's auction on Thursday, reports the Wall Street Journal. Having topped the $30.8 million Bill Gates paid for a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's scientific notebook, Codex Leicester, in 1994, it's now "the most expensive book, manuscript, historical document, or printed text ever to hit the auction block," per Artnet.
The online group of investors, ConstitutionDAO, did log the second-highest bid on the six-page 1787 document, one of only two copies not held in institutional collections, in the effort led by venture capitalist Graham Novak and financial advisor Austin Cain, both 25. The decentralized autonomous organization, which amassed $46 million in four days with donations from 17,437 people, later said it capped its bid at $40 million due to the costs of insuring, storing, and transporting the document. (Others pointed to a sudden drop in the price of cryptocurrency Ethereum.) "What we tried to do was make the Constitution more accessible to the public," group organizer Anisha Sunkerneni tells the Journal. Despite the loss, "I think we've raised enough awareness to illustrate that a DAO is another option."
The purchase by a DAO would've marked a major shift in the art market "historically steered by the tastes and deep pockets of billionaires," per the Journal, which likens the effort to "the country's first major crowdfunding experiment when Americans pooled their pennies to put a pedestal beneath New York's Statue of Liberty in 1885." The median donation was about $206. Donors couldn't claim ownership of the Constitution copy, printed for delegates at the Constitutional Convention and Continental Congress, if it was won. Instead, they were to receive tokens allowing them to vote on where it should be donated or shown. The funds will now be returned. (A DAO did purchase a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album this year.)