All collectibles are not created equal - the value of the Declaration of Independence
As every American will know, today in history marks the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence of the United States from Great Britain.

On July 4, 1776 the document was adopted by the Continental Congress, announcing that the 13 American colonies at war with the UK were now independent states, and no longer colonies of the British Empire.

Independence is associated most closely with George Washington, since he had led America to victory and went on be declared its first President, but the main writer of the declaration was the third-President-to-be Thomas Jefferson.

US declaration of independence
The US declaration of independence

The second sentence is famous and typical:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

Versions of the document itself naturally have a powerful impact on the collectibles markets.

In 1820 there were growing concerns about the condition of the original Declaration of Independence, so a copperplate facsimile was engraved from the original utilising a wet-ink transfer process.

This was used to engrave a copperplate, with 201 copies printed from it immediately, though only 30 survive, of which 19 are in museums. In 1843, another set of copies was printed by Peter Force before the copperplate was retired.

Around 250 examples of the Force copies are known to exist. We sold one of the best examples in 2010.

An alternative way for American collectors to celebrate the Declaration is to gather together an example of a signature from every signer. This however is an extremely stout challenge.

Button Gwinnett manuscript
Button Gwinnett manuscript

The biggest difficulty isn't in tracking down a George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock or Benjamin Franklin autograph, though all of these are valuable - sometimes extremely valuable if you get the right Washington or Jefferson manuscript.

No, the biggest difficulty is tracking down an autograph by the infrequent signer and duel casualty Button Gwinnett, one of the most sought-after autographs on the planet. One example was sold as part of the James Copley collection for $722,500.


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