In 1989, a man in Philadelphia purchased an old painting at a flea market for $4.00. He bought the painting for its worn, yet ornate frame and decided to tear the painting away. Behind the canvas, however, he found an old, folded document and recognized it as the Declaration of Independence. Believing it was simply an old copy, he set it aside for a few years before a friend urged him to contact a professional.
An Incredible Find
The man contacted Sotheby’s, a famous auction house and authentication service. Sotheby’s executive vice president David Redden traveled to Pennsylvania to take a look. Immediately, he realized the folded piece of paper was an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. Only 24 were known to exist and of those copies only three were held privately. Redden estimated the value of the document, which was in excellent condition, at about a million dollars. He was way off, however! The owner of the document sold it at auction through Sotheby’s in 1991, for a whopping $2.4 million dollars, making his original $4.00 purchase one of the best buys in history!
Eight Million Dollar Profit
The story was far from over for this $4.00 Declaration of Independence. In 2000, it was sold at auction again and purchased by Norman Lear, a famous television producer for $8.14 million. At the time, Sotheby's claimed it was the highest amount of money paid for anything on the internet and the highest price for any American historical document.