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A group of cryptocurrency traders tried to buy the U.S. Constitution and almost did it

Late last week, a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts tried to buy an original copy of the U.S. Constitution, and they almost did it. We’re explaining how the story unfolded over the last week. 

Background 

There are currently 13 physical copies of the U.S. Constitution in existence, with a limited number of original copies that are owned privately. One of the privately-owned copies was going up for sale last week, and a group of internet friends decided to crowdfund and attempt to purchase the copy. It was the first time in 33 years that a copy of the Constitution was up for auction. 

This is where ‘ConstitutionDAO’ was born. 

Before we get into it, a ‘DAO’ is a decentralised autonomous organisation. A DAO is essentially a community-led entity with no central authority. It is a self-governance structure, allowing crypto users to pursue a project. 

Anyone could donate to the purchase, as long as they donated with the cryptocurrency ‘Ethereum’. In exchange for the donation, people would receive tokens to vote and make decisions on the governance of the document. For example, those who donate would be given the chance to vote on where the document would be displayed. 

The DAO went viral, and within the first 12 hours of launch, over US$3 million was donated to the cause. Within just under a week, the group managed to raise US$47 million worth of Ethereum.

What was the result? 

Altogether, 17,000 people donated to the DAO group and participated in the auction. The group appointed a non-profit to make bids in the auction on the DAO’s behalf. As the auction went on, there was back and forth between two representatives – the DAO and another private buyer. The Constitution then sold for US$43 million, however, no one knew which representative was representing the DAO, meaning for 10 minutes, no one knew if the DAO had secured the Constitution. After 10 minutes, the group then posted on Twitter that they were not the winners of the auction.  

The group further confirmed that as a result, donors are now able to get a refund, minus Ethereum network fees.

Despite not securing the document, the group claims, “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.”

Who outbid the 17,000 crypto enthusiasts? The buyer was hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, who announced he would loan the document to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas for public exhibition. Griffin will add it to his art collection, worth over US$800 million.

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