Adamstown, PA

The time that a $4 flea market picture frame hid an original copy of the Declaration of Independence

Anita Durairaj
The Declaration of IndependencePhoto byCornell University Library; No Known Copyright Restrictions

In the 1980s, a financial analyst from Philadelphia went to a flea market in Adamstown, PA.

The financial analyst was a collector of antique maps and financial documents. At the flea market, he was attracted to an old picture frame that contained a tattered painting of a country scene.

The analyst was not interested in the painting. He was only interested in the frame but he ended up purchasing the frame and the painting for $4.

Once he had purchased the painting, the analyst inspected it and tried to prie the painting from the frame when an old document slipped out. The document was folded into 12 parts and on the backside, it had the words "Declaration of Independence" handwritten. It was in pristine condition for its age.

The analyst held onto the document unsure if it was an original or a fake. He eventually contacted an expert who got in touch with Sotheby's auction house.

Sotheby's had previously sold a copy of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence known as the "Dunlap Broadside." This copy had sold for more than $1 million.

They recognized that this document was another surviving copy of the Declaration of Independence.

At the time, there were only 23 other authenticated copies with two in private hands.

The analyst decided to list his lucky find from the flea market with the auction house. Sotheby's listed the document as very rare and it sold for $2.42 million.

The analyst who found the hidden document at the flea market chose to remain anonymous but he definitely became richer from his lucky find.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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