From its fairytale-like discovery in Scotland by sister auction house Lyon & Turnbull to a record-breaking auction.
07/02/2021 Latest News, News and Film, Books and Manuscripts
Freeman’s is thrilled to announce the results of its July 1 single-lot auction, This Important State Paper: Signer Charles Carroll’s Copy of the Declaration of Independence, which achieved a historic $4.42M sale price, exceeding by a remarkable five times its pre-sale high estimate of $800,000. This result marks the second-highest price ever paid at auction for any copy of the Declaration of Independence, and is the highest price ever paid at auction for an American document printed in the 19th century. It more than quadrupled the world auction record for a Stone printing of the Declaration of Independence set in New York City in 2019.
In an achievement befitting Philadelphia’s auction house, this historic sale was held in the nation’s birthplace just days before Independence Day, 245 years after the original Declaration of Independence was signed. “I couldn’t be happier for the consignors, the new owner, and Freeman’s,” says Darren Winston, Head of Freeman’s Books and Manuscripts department. “From its fairytale-like discovery by Lyon & Turnbull through to today’s record-breaking auction, it has been both incredibly exciting and a true privilege to be involved with the sale of this significant piece of American history.”
This rare signer’s copy of William J. Stone’s 1823 printing of the Declaration of Independence was, remarkably, rediscovered in Scotland by Freeman’s sister auction house, Lyon & Turnbull. It was first presented to Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832), the last surviving signer of the original document, and later inscribed by his grandson-in-law John MacTavish (1787-1852). Commissioned by then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1820, Stone’s copperplate engraving on vellum is considered the most accurate representation of the original 1776 document.
Seth Kaller, expert in American historic documents and artifacts, says, “We all know the theory that great items find their market, but often that isn’t true with so many things—business, personal, political—competing for everyone’s attention. This clearly broke through; it had the greatest depth of bidders I’ve ever seen for a seven-figure document.”
The document will be on temporary loan to the National Park Service for display at Philadelphia’s Second Bank of the United States for the July 4 holiday. The vendors, who remain anonymous, wish to thank Lyon & Turnbull and Freeman's for finding the document and arranging such a successful outcome.
Founded in 1805 mere blocks from Independence Hall, Freeman’s is America’s oldest auction house, and throughout its storied history has had the privilege of stewarding the sale of numerous historically significant items, including the 1969 sale of John Dunlap’s 1776 broadside of the Declaration of Independence, which sold for an unprecedented $404,000 ($2.97M in today’s dollars). This Important State Paper carries on this long-standing tradition, bringing a piece of previously-unaccounted-for American history to auction, and underscoring Freeman’s pride of place as Philadelphia’s international auction house.
Freeman's and Lyon & Turnbull formed a strategic marketing alliance in 2000. United by a shared commitment to customer service and special focus on single-owner collections, the two companies have successfully staged a wide range of joint international projects over the last two decades including specialist auctions in Hong Kong and London as well as exhibitions and events on both sides of the Atlantic.