What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?

The Declaration of Independence was drafted by a congressional committee (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman), edited by the Continental Congress (revised the text and eliminated about 1/4 of the text) and ratified by Congress on July 4, 1776. Congress authorized various versions to distribute this historical document. The original copy was signed by most of the 56 delegates (some signers were not present and signed the document by August 2). The document is handwritten on parchment paper (made from animal skin and treated with lime) and measures 24.5 x 29.75 inches. Like the Mona Lisa, the value of the original document is priceless (note that the Mona Lisa is valued at $782 million).

The original handwritten Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is displayed at the National Archives in Washington D.C. After ratification a copy was sent to a print shop owned by John Dunlap. Working through the night, Dunlap set the type for a print run of 200 broadsides that would be distributed the following day. The Dunlap broadside is printed with a typeface on chain laid paper (similar to wove paper of today). Only two of the signatures appear on this version: those of John Hancock (President of Congress) and Charles Thompson (Secretary of congress). It measures 14 x 18 inches. Of the original 200, only 25 copies survive today — 16 are owned by institutions, 2 by the British Public Record, and 7 are privately owned. The last sale of a Dunlap Broadside back in 2000 sold for over $8 million.

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Books Ever Sold
The Theft that Made the Mona Lisa Famous

For futher reading: A Grand Old Flag by Kevin Keim, Dorling Kindersley (2007), Stars & Stripes Forever by Richard Schneider, William Morrow (2003).

2 thoughts on “What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?

  1. Well, the Declaration is a symbol of our American Dream, even though it is being devalued today. The question isn’t how much the document itself is worth, it’s how much to us the principles are valued and respected these days.

  2. The true value of th Declaration of Independence is in how well its principles are understood, implemented, worked for, and lived. There seem to be a lot of people about today who are happy to tell everyone else what to believe about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Too bad that some of those same people are the ones who have no real understanding of what the words and values really mean….

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