FOUND - Declaration of Independence Fetches $1.5 Million

Tucked away in a Desk Drawer for Generations

Video
The Declaration of Independence discovery story (video) as told by Blanchard’s Auction Service.

Updated November 12, 2017
By Ruthie Bowles, Contributing Author for What Sells Best

POTSDAM, NEW YORK (VIDEO) - A rare 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence, found in a desk drawer, has fetched $1.5 million at Blanchard’s Auction Service, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

THE STORY

The New York Times reported, the authenticated Declaration document, and related papers, belong to a descendant of early colonial settlers in eastern Long Island.

On July 9th, 1776, John Holt, the Manhattan publisher, lightly edited the Declaration of Independence, and sent out the copies. This newly discovered copy was originally delivered to Colonel David Mulford, who commanded a regiment in East Hampton. The soldier who delivered the Holt Page, along with other documents, penned a note on the package which read “made Bold to Open & Read them.” Due to his death in 1778 from small pox, he never saw the nation gain its independence from Britain.

Holt edited Congress’ original text by adding a New York politicians’ statement, and changing punctuation. Printings of this page were archived at the New York Public Library; the Westchester County Archives in Elmsford, N.Y.; the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California; and the Cincinnati Museum Center (which discovered a copy in its collection in 2015). 

The anonymous auction consignor has members of the Gardiner, Mulford, and Buell families in their ancestry. And, besides the Declaration of Independence, the family also held an additional 75 documents, gathered by Blanchard’s for the auction. They estimated the value of those additional items to be $25,000 to $50,000.

Reportedly, Farmers, ministers, whalers, and housewives authored the additional documents, which detail infant deaths,  land and livestock transactions, and Revolutionary troop movements. Some bookplates printed by Paul Revere for the Gardiner patriarchs are also included. A historian from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Keith Arbour, said that “the rediscovered collection contains many mysteries for scholars to solve”, highlighting the value of these historical documents.

WHY IT'S RARE

John Holt published 500 copies of the Declaration. Only four of these original copies survived, or so it was believed, until a fifth copy surfaced in this private collection. This copy of the Declaration of Independence is the only one still in private hands.

RARE TREASURE

Among the rare documents we have tracked, this one is definitely cause for excitement. There is no doubt that the auction competition will be fierce for this nearly one of a kind piece of U.S. history.

Small details make a big difference in the prices of rare documents. If you believe you have found something, you may want to check with the experts found on our appraisals page.

AUCTION INFORMATION

The Declaration of Independence was poignantly auctioned on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2017, at Blanchard’s Auction Service in Potsdam, New York. The copy sold for $1.5 million, setting a new record for a New York printing of the Declaration. The sale amount far exceeded Blanchard’s estimates of $500,000 to $1 million.

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