We Lost the Constitution

..but crypto won the attention of millions of newcomers.

Hola from Gran Canaria!

We’ve brought part of the Braver team to a 1920’s style banana plantation for a week of remote work. It’s 07:24 as I write this, and it just went from pitch black darkness to a sunny day in 19 minutes.

Last week, I wrote about how I and a bunch of strangers on the Internet self-organized to buy a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution.

It was quite something to watch. The ConstitutionDAO (“Decentralized Autonomous Organisation”) raised over $40 million in one week, from over 17.000 contributors, thousands of which had never ever done anything with crypto before.

So, what happened? Well, we lost the auction.

Here is the statement from the DAO that sums it up better than I could:

“We did not win the bid for the copy of the U.S. constitution.

While this wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO. This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of—crypto or fiat. We are so incredibly grateful to have done this together with you all and are still in shock that we even got this far.

Sotheby’s has never worked with a DAO community before. We broke records for the most money crowdfunded in less than 72 hours. We have educated an entire cohort of people around the world – from museum curators and art directors to our grandmothers asking us what eth is when they read about us in the news – about the possibilities of web3. And, on the flip side, many of you have learned about what it means to steward an asset like the U.S. constitution across museums and collections, or watched an art auction for the first time.

We had 17,437 donors, with a median donation size of $206.26. A significant percentage of these donations came from wallets that were initialized for the first time.”

This statement points out what the ConstitutionDAO was truly about. It wasn’t first and foremost about the document at all - it was about showing what crypto can

I’ve spent a lot of time digging into the web3/crypto rabbit hole over the last few months. What got me seriously interested (beyond just buying some cryptocurrencies which I’d done years ago) was NFTs.

Much like NFTs was my “gateway drug” into this space, the possibility of buying the constitution might have been the gateway drug into web3 for many other people last week. Thousands of historians, librarians, American patriots, and parchment-lovers across the world have demonstrably gone through the hurdles to open their first crypto wallet, buy their very first ETH, and figure out how to send value across the Ethereum network in order to participate in the ConstitutionDAO. That is really cool.

Over the coming months and years, there will be many such events that pull new people into crypto. There has already been a few:

  • Bitcoin originally brought in a cocktail of techies, libertarians, central bank skeptics, inflation haters, readers of The Sovereign Individidual, and the occasional extremely forward-looking Dutch family.

  • DeFi brought in a bunch of finance people (and regular folks who just want decent yields on their savings),

  • NFTs brought in a hodgepodge of artists, art lovers and speculators.

  • Play-to-earn gaming brought in tons of gamers, plus, more surprisingly, millions of people who needed a way to make a living day-to-day when COVID shut down their jobs.

We can only wonder what the next onboarding event/use case might be, and who the next cohort of onbordees might include.

As many in web3 know, it is almost impossible to un-see crypto once you have been properly exposed to it. An attempt to buy the Constitution using $40 million worth of internet money, and ETH being listed as one of the world’s to currencies at Sothebys (!), must surely have opened many people’s eyes last week.

That’s all I have to report on the ConstitutionDAO for now. We lost the bid for the document, but won the engagement of thousands, and the attention of millions. Not bad for a week of self-organised work!

Thank you for reading,


Postscript: Unbelievably, the person who outbid the DAO was none other than the Ken Griffin, the hedge fund manager that became the arch nemesis of thousands of investors/speculators from r/WallStreetBets back in January. Back then, Griffith’s firm Citadel Securities was accused of conspiring with the trading platform Robinhood to stop people from trading the Gamestop stock in the middle of a buying frenzy, to give Citadel time to get rid of its short positions in Gamestop (to Ken’s defense, Citadel was found not guilty in court just a few days ago).

So now he’s done it again. Ken Griffiths vs thousands of people on the internet: 2-0.