A group of cryptocurrency fans lost a much-anticipated bid for a rare first printing of the U.S. Constitution at a Sotheby’s auction on Thursday.
The group, ConstitutionDAO, conducted a frenzied, weeklong online crowdfunding campaign to place a bid on the artifact, one of only 13 copies known to exist. It had raised more than $40 million in less than a week for the bid.
The final sale price was $43.2 million, according to a Sotheby’s spokesman. The winner’s identity was not immediately known. Minutes after the gavel, ConstitutionDAO confirmed the loss on Twitter.
“While this wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO,” it said, adding that contributors would have their donations refunded, minus fees.
ConstitutionDAO is what’s known as a decentralized autonomous organization, a new type of group that is governed by holders of a cryptocurrency token and enshrines its rules in blockchain-based “smart contracts.” The group was formed last week, and its last-minute effort to raise money for the auction became a cause célèbre among cryptocurrency fans online.
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. Had it won the auction, ConstitutionDAO would have made the biggest purchase by a DAO, and the first of such a prominent physical artifact.
The copy of the Constitution sold by Sotheby’s previously belonged to Dorothy Goldman, the widow of a New York real estate developer who bought it in 1988 for $165,000. Proceeds from the auction will go to the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, the auction house said.
The auction on Thursday night produced a frenzy of excitement among ConstitutionDAO participants, with thousands watching a livestream to cheer on the group’s bid. At first, it was not clear whether the winning bidder represented ConstitutionDAO or not, and several people affiliated with the group mistakenly claimed victory.
But after the loss became clear, the mood in the group’s Discord chat darkened. As they talked about getting their money back, some participants began making plans for the future.
“Okay so we didn’t get the Constitution,” one user wrote. “What are we going to bid on now?”