Finding a Declaration of Independence Shouldn't Be Hard

Lindsay Mannering

declaration of independence
Every time I go to an antiques fair or a flea market, I keep a sharp eye out for any yellowed, rolled up paper that could be tucked away in a vase or in a pile of prints. Hey, there are still some copies of the Declaration of Independence out there folks, and they're just begging to be found. I'll be spending my Fourth of July weekend scouring my city's finest markets to see if I can't snag me a meal ticket copy of our nation's most famous document. And how poetic it would be if I found one on Independence Day!

It would totally symbolize my independence from the man, the banks, and the money troubles because, shoot. If you find one of the few remaining at-large copies of the DOI, then your finance problems are solved, my friend. Just ask these people.

A Philadelphia man bought a $4 frame at a flea market back in 1989, and when he removed the painting the frame came with, he stared right into a rare copy of the 1776 Declaration of Independence. The copy was sold at auction for ... drum roll ... $2.42 million. And the buyer of that copy then resold the document in 2000 and got $8.1 million for it. Turns out, this specific copy was one of 25 known surviving copies of the estimated 200 that were printed in 1776. Cha-ching!

Then in 2007, a Nashville man bought a rolled up Declaration for $2.48 at a thrift shop. He spent a few years getting it authenticated, but he received around half a million for his copy that was one of 200 printed in 1820 by John Quincy Adams.

Then in 2009, an American doing unrelated research at the National Archives in London found one gathering dust among old correspondence papers the British had somehow acquired from US colonists. The National Archives in London haven't sold this copy of the Declaration, but have loaned it to us Americans on goodwill. (Sheesh, it's our document after all.)

I'm going to do some unverified math here and say that if 26 of the 200 or so original Declaration prints have been found, does that mean that there are 174 still out there waiting to be discovered? And even more from the John Quincy Adams 1820s print job? How hard could this be! A little thrift store hunting up and down the Mid-Atlantic and who knows, we could be rich!

Forget the fireworks and bbqs, see you at the flea market, ladies.

Feeling lucky?

Photo via Tecchie/Flickr

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