Bulletins

A crypto group raised more than $40 million, but lost an auction for the US Constitution

The auction reached $43.2 million, and the DAO couldn't keep up.

The Constitution

The Constitution belongs to the people — just not these specific crypto people.

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The ConstitutionDAO raised more than $40 million to win a copy of the U.S. Constitution, but ultimately it wasn't enough. The online group, which organized itself using blockchain technology, lost an auction at Sotheby's that ultimately ended with a winning bid of $43.2 million.

"While this wasn't the outcome we hoped for," said Julian Weisser, one of the group's leaders, "we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO. This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of — crypto or fiat."


Some speculated that the DAO's problem was with the volatility of the ether currency. Because of its high "gas" transaction fees, and the fluctuation in prices, the group actually had less money to spend than it appeared, and the price of the document simply went above its spending power. The real answer seemed to be somewhat related: They hadn't raised enough money to not just buy the document but also take care of it on an ongoing basis.

The auction started with a huge amount of confidence among the DAO members: Though most of the group had never met (virtually or otherwise) before last week, a smattering of the people who contributed to the fund for the auction watched — and drank — from Betaworks Studio New York as the bidding progressed. Even more filled the Sotheby's livestream chat with emoji and excitement, or observed the auction countdown clock from inside a virtual lobby of Sotheby's on Decentraland, a 3D VR platform.

Once the auction kicked off, a debate emerged: Viewers spent the auction trying to decide which bidder, David or Brooke, represented them. They got excited, and then slightly panicked, and then deeply confused when the gavel dropped. Ultimately, they were team David, and they lost. It's not yet clear who actually won the auction.

Spirits were still high after the action ended, though. A group of DAO supporters jumped onto Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse rooms to praise the community for coming together so quickly, raising so much money and bringing so many people along for the ride. The general consensus: We didn't win the auction, but we did start a movement, and we brought new people into crypto.

"We had 17,437 donors," Weisser wrote in the ConstitutionDAO Discord, "with a median donation size of $206.26." Donors can get their money back, minus gas fees, shortly. But more than a few members of the DAO said they wanted no such thing; they'd built something big, something exciting, and they didn't want to get out of it.

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Bulletins