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Crypto nerds are trying to buy the U.S. Constitution, because of course they are

When one of the few remaining copies of the original U.S. Constitution goes on auction at Sotheby’s later this week, it may have a rather cringey bidder.

Crypto nerds are trying to buy the U.S. Constitution, because of course they are
[Source Images: giftlegacy/iStock; Chinnapong/iStock]

The following sentence may sound like the logline for an as-yet unmade National Treasure 3, but it’s very much real: A large group of crypto maximalists is banding together in an effort to obtain the actual U.S. Constitution.

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Unlike the antagonists in the previous Nicolas Cage movies, this crew might actually succeed. Or kind of, anyway.

On Thursday, November 18, Sotheby’s is auctioning off “an exceptionally rare and extraordinarily historic” first printing of the U.S. Constitution. Only thirteen copies remain, besides the one located in Washington D.C.’s National Archives museum, from the original printing of 500 that the founders issued for submission to the Continental Congress. It’s the first time in 30 years that this one has become available for purchase, following the 1997 death of its last winner, New York real estate developer S. Howard Goldman. It’s expected to fetch between $15 million and $20 million in the auction—unless, of course, it instead fetches the equivalent in Ethereum.

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No sooner had Sotheby’s announced the impending auction than a decentralized autonomous organization called ConstitutionDAO cropped up, with a plan to pool funds together to win the crown jewel. (Perhaps they were bored of trying to decide which dog-related cryptocoin would be the wrong tree to go barking up.) Soon enough, scroll emoji-filled screeds started appearing on Fintech Twitter, spreading awareness of the folly-in-progress. (Somehow, Elon Musk has not tweeted about it as of this writing.)

While the folks involved here might ordinarily be expected to use an Ethereum smart contract to purchase, say, Martin Shkreli’s confiscated Wu-Tang album, they have set their sights higher this time. “We intend to put The Constitution in the hands of The People,” reads the copy on ConstitutionDAO’s website, a rather lofty way to describe a collection of crypto nerds trolling America. Since a decentralized autonomous organization is a loose group of untold numbers of contributors, a winning bid would technically put the U.S. Constitution in the hands of “the people.” Or at least “some people,” anyway. Considering that the DAO’s big plan for what to do with the document, though, is “find a safe home for it, such as the Smithsonian,” it seems like the functional difference between the crypto crew and anyone else winning the auction is negligible. As the saying goes, the medium is the message, and a victory here will merely mean tons of crypto publicity.

Still, the lure of crypto publicity, along with some kind of nebulous victory for libertarians, has already proven an irresistible combination for many.

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“There’s a sense of non-partisan American patriotism I haven’t felt in a long time, and a feeling of pride that web3 is making this possible,” tech analyst Packy McCormack wrote in a newsletter entitled “Let’s buy the U.S. Constitution.”

Whether it’s truly patriotism he’s picking up on, or the extremely online thrill of doing something epic for the lulz, enthusiasm for the endeavor is indeed evident. According to the ConstitutionDAO website, the group has already raised over $3 million in Ethereum so far. Now, if they simply manage to raise about seven times that amount in the next three days, they may actually live the dream of accomplishing the same thing Nicolas Cage did in National Treasure, only through legal and infinitely more annoying means.

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