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George Washington Read This: Documents Sell for $9.8M

George Washington at the signing of the U.S. Constitution from the famous Howard Chandler Christy painting.

George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution so it was only natural that he got a copy of the august document and Bill of Rights, both of which just set a record at auction for U.S. documents.

Washington’s personal copies of the two documents, fetched $9.8 million at  Christie’s in New York on Friday (June 22).

The topped the last record setting price in 2009 of $3.4 million for an autographed copy of Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 election victory speech. A 1787 letter written from Washington to his nephew about  the Constitution sold for $3.2 million the same year.

The president’s signed, gold-embossed set, dated to 1789, was expected to sell for up to $3 million, according to the auction house. The bidding was obviously spirited, to say the least.

But on a positive note, the non-profit Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, which operates the historic Mount Vernon estate in Virginia where Washington lived, was the top bidder. The documents are expected to go on display at his house, which is a public museum.

“The unique book has been in the Mount Vernon library until 1876, and will soon be returned to that library,” Chris Coover, senior specialist of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, told Reuters.

There’s no question about their authenticity. The documents, included in a bound set called the Acts of Congress are signed by Washington himself. They also include his hand-written margin notes relating to the office of the presidency.

The documents were first sold in 1876 and were in private hands until last week’s auction. They were last owned by collector Richard Dietrich, whose estate put them up for auction.

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