In Bid to Buy US Constitution, Dollars Dominate Crypto


Yes, Nicolas Cage’s remunerative body of work is spotty. And there was his run-in with the IRS.

But when his character in the 2004 film “National Treasure” found a secret map cleverly coded into the actual Declaration of Independence, it got a lot of people thinking.

Some thought “why am I watching this?” while others were intrigued by the idea of Freemasonic Founding Fathers hiding loads of loot.

That brings us to the internet collective ConstitutionDAO, which on Thursday (Nov. 18) lost its bid to buy the last privately held copy of the U.S. Constitution from owner Dorothy Goldman.

(Incidentally, “DAO” stands for “digital autonomous organization” — we’ll come back to that.)

Meanwhile, according to a statement, ConstitutionDAO enticed “17,437 donors, with a median donation size of $206.26” — all in the form of the Etherium cryptocurrency — and used the crowdfunding platform to collect it.

The group reportedly raised over $40 million in Ether on the eponymous blockchain. You’d think that sum could buy you an unsigned copy of this most historical of documents. Alas, auction house Sotheby’s sold the copy to an anonymous buyer for $43.2 million instead.

Was it Bill Gates? He once plunked down almost $31 million for a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester notebook. Perhaps it was Carlyle Group Co-founder David Rubenstein, who a while back got a real bargain on a copy of England’s Magna Carta for a paltry $21 million.

Truth be told, we know who got the gavel. The winning bid came from Ken Griffin, CEO of hedge fund Citadel. The Wall Street Journal reported that the billionaire “intends to lend the 1787 folio to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, a museum with free admission founded a decade ago by Walmart heiress Alice Walton.”

Still, this requires more investigation. And for the last time: No, we’re not breaking into the Library of Congress or that creepy warehouse where Indiana Jones hid the Ark of the Covenant.

A ‘More Perfect’ Internet Awaits

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”

You have to admire “more perfect.” As comedian Colin Quinn once joked, merely “perfect” is good for other countries — but not for America. Around here, “more perfect” is the standard.

That aside, what is a “digital autonomous organization” (DAO) and why does it need to collect over $40 million in cryptocurrency to own a copy of the U.S. Constitution?

Being likened in some quarters to meme stocks and NFTs, DAOs are proponents of the Web3, which isn’t the internet you’re reading this on, but the one that replaces it. It’s essentially the DeFi version of the internet, running on — that’s right — the blockchain.

Forgetting Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that the metaverse will inherit the mobile internet (he hopes), Web3 supporters say it’s (more) free, faster and more trustworthy. In effect, “more perfect.”

DAOs are investor groups that pool resources to buy valuable stuff. Donors don’t have any ownership of the item(s) purchased, per se, but rather receive a “token” that bestows voting rights as to what is done (or not done) with the collectibles in question.

As The New York Times reported, “Crypto-collectives have bought high-priced art before, including a Wu-Tang Clan album, ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,’ which was bought by the anonymous investor collective PleasrDAO last month for $4 million.”

Like all new concepts, DAOs will take some getting used to. Explaining its lost cause, ConstitutionDAO put a smiley face emoji on the experience, stating that “while this wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight,” adding that “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.”

They added that “Sotheby’s has never worked with a DAO community before. We broke records for the most money crowdfunded in less than 72 hours. We have educated an entire cohort of people around the world – from museum curators and art directors to our grandmothers asking us what eth is when they read about us in the news.”

So, no founding principals were purchased, but it wasn’t a total loss – at least not for crypto and Web3.

‘National Ledger,’ the Sequel

What’s next? For one thing, many if not most of the 17,437 donors will want their Ether back.

As previously noted, that will reportedly be handled by crowdfunding platform Juicebox.

Some of the funds will presumably remain, perhaps to bid on more memorabilia.

At the time of this writing and according to The Wall Street Journal, Sotheby’s still has a copy of The Bill of Rights up for auction at the Black Friday opening price of just $700,000. Sounds like a winner.

Besides, we sense a secret behind this. Someone get Nic Cage’s agent on the horn.

Also, does anyone have a pair of those Ben Franklin-issue multicolored trifocals? We’re going to need them. And yes, we will probably sneak into that weird government warehouse after all.

Can you bribe a museum guard with crypto? Guess we’ll find out.