ConstitutionDAO: A Complete Timeline Leading up to the Bid
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ConstitutionDAO: A Complete Timeline Leading up to the Bid

2 years ago

The DAO wanted to buy a U.S. Constitution Bill; what they did was show what DAOs are capable of. Find out all about this record-breaking crowd-funded effort leading up to the auction.

ConstitutionDAO: A Complete Timeline Leading up to the Bid

Daftar Isi

A constitution is similar to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Or, at-least it looks quite similar to one. Merriam-Webster defines it as a "system of beliefs and laws by which a country, state, or organization is governed."
What is a dao? A DAO, too, is a set of (literally) coded rules that govern a digitally geographical community. There is one crucial difference. Everyone who holds a seat in the state is representing a specified geographical area and its people. In a DAO, however, everyone (and anyone) who holds the governance token holds equal voting power over the community.

While it is hard to tell if this was indeed the motivation behind the ConstitutionDAO in their — sadly, unsuccessful, attempt at buying a copy of the 1787 U.S. Constitution, one thing is certain — the fact that the group was able to show the coalescing of a community for a singular purpose.

But what actually happened? Why did the ConstitutionDAO fail? Why are new DAOs emerging that are buying historical artefacts to NBA teams? Is this the next step in the era of digital communities?

Let's find out in this article.

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What Is the U.S. Constitution on Sale Here?

Before we dive further into the details about what happened to the ConstitutionDAO, let us understand the item that was actually up for sale.

This is the first print of the Constitution that was exclusively available to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention and other participating members of the Continental Congress. It was printed in 1787 and there were roughly 500 copies. Out of those 500 copies, only 13 survived and about 11 of them are held by institutions. The copy for sale is one of these 13 copies that ended up surviving.

When the convention ended, several delegates got more copies printed and to share with their friends and family. The copy in question was with Dorothy Goldman, whose husband had purchased it in 1997.

ConstitutionDAO Attempts to Buy a Copy of U.S. Constitution

A casual conversation between crypto degens on Twitter led to a full-fledged decision to pursue the buying of the 1787 first-edition printing of the US Constitution when it was listed for an auction on Sotheby's. The idea wasn't to buy the Constitution itself, but to send across a message that it was indeed possible with the power of blockchain and DAOs.

The attempts were made in the right direction — a community was quickly formed. Several members joined. Several million dollars were raised. Nothing like this had happened ever before. It seemed like the ConstitutionDAO was about to make history. But on the day of the auction, a certain "unknown" buyer submitted a $43.17M bid. And as the gavel came down, the very first edition of the American Constitution was sold not to the ConstitutionDAO, but to someone else.

But wait, why would a DAO want to buy something like a Constitution? And if their purpose was to buy the Constitution, why did they not end up buying it? Was it a scam?

What Really Happened?

The story goes obviously much deeper than this. Here's how the events actually unfolded.

Nov. 11, 2021 — Planting the Seed

The idea was simple — to come together as a community and collectively buy the constitution.

— Austin Cain (📜,📜) (@j_austincain) November 11, 2021A friend & I are coordinating what could be the most insane, high profile acquiring DAO to date

One that would make the Wu Tang album acquisition look like small potatoes

If you are interested or know anyone who might be interested, my DM's are open


RT & spread the word!
It all started when Austin Cain, a core team member of the ConstitutionDAO tweeted that he and a friend, Graham Novak, were about to create a "high profile acquiring DAO to date." While no further information was shared, he declared that people who were indeed interested in what his idea was could DM him. And after a flurry of tweets and new members consistently joining their Discord channel and visiting the official website, you could see crypto Twitter raging with tweets from people about how it was about to buy the US Constitution.

The idea itself was unique and quite unheard of.

Who in their right minds would actually want to buy the Constitution? It serves no purpose to the average crypto user. However, if all of them could come together and do something, that would send a strong message to the next billionaire who was thinking of doing so.

Slowly, a community around the idea started taking shape. People started getting interested. Several started tweeting and even calling in their friends to contribute. The chants of "Web3 for We the People" were heard all around the world as hundreds (and quickly, thousands) of speculators and crypto enthusiasts started listening in. Nicolas Cage memes abound.

— Nick Dobos (@NickADobos) November 12, 2021
— weisser.eth (📜, 🏀, 🏡) (@julianweisser) November 12, 2021gm. wgbtc.

twitter 👉 @ConstitutionDAO
discord 👉
— Nat Harooni, OD (@NatHarooni) November 13, 2021When my mom asks why I’ve been acting strange lately. 📜

Nov. 12, 2021 — $20 Million in 6 Days?!

On Nov. 12, 2021, this image was shared in the ConstitutionDAO's Discord.

The entire ConstitutionDAO community was rattled.

How could they raise so much money in such a short period of time? Surely, this was going to be a huge test for the entire crypto community and its ability to really bring people together. The early members of the community started beating their drum on Twitter. The popular hashtag WAGMI (we're all gonna make it) slowly turned into WAGBTC (we're all gonna buy the constitution) and several tweets were flowing in.

— Blake Michael (@BlakeMichael14) November 18, 2021everyone tonight #wagbtc

Interestingly, there were absolutely no restrictions to where the people were joining this community — no one cared if you were American, European, Asian or others. As long as you believed in the DAO and had trust in the next member you were all just buying the Constitution together. This was truly a display of Web3 and the power it bestowed upon digital communities.

Within a few days itself, the total amount raised had ballooned to $1.6M. There was a shared sense of achievement with this amount along with the fact that it acted as a catalyst in inspiring more people to join the community.

The shared sense of purpose was amplified by the memes floating around - everyone within the community was contributing to its growth in some way or the other. Just a day later, this amount jumped to over $5M. A few days later on November 18, the community had collectively raised almost $20M. This was a feat like no other.

— Nathan Baschez (@nbashaw) November 17, 2021OMFG


Nov. 18, 2021 — Funds Raised, But Was It Enough?

— ConstitutionDAO (📜, 📜) (@ConstitutionDAO) November 18, 2021ok it is a little past midnight and we have now raised 40 MILLION DOLLARS to buy this constitution

today has been absolutely incredible, but its time for me to slep

see you all in the morning, we tweet at dawn [CHIRPBIRDICON]🌞 #wagbtc

And this wasn't even where the community decided to stop. The bar was raised and eventually over $20M was raised within the next few days taking the total raise up to $40M. This amount reached its peak at an astonishing $47M.

But there was another task at hand that needed to be figured out — how could a DAO interact with Sotheby's? A fervent pursuit for understanding how the logistics would work followed.

There was another issue that they needed to deal with: the auction house did not accept anything apart from "government-issued currencies". They had accepted cryptocurrencies as payments previously but that option wasn't available for this auction. And the ConstitutionDAO was raising its funds only in ETH, which meant that they needed to be converted to USD prior to their use.

And if that wasn't enough, the community also needed to figure out how to deal with the KYC compliance checks that needed to be completed. How could the thousands of contributors to the DAO provide KYC? Most of them were just anonymous Twitter users.

To fulfil this task, the ConstitutionDAO decided to collaborate with a crypto exchange to convert its ETH to USD. A non-profit organization was also called for to place the bids on the behalf of the DAO. Some of the members of the DAO were also in contact with FTX to act as a facilitator for the process. Prior to the auction, the DAO had raised about $47M for the auction.

Nov. 18, 2021 — Auction Day at Sotheby's

— Ryan Wyatt (fwiz.eth) (@Fwiz) November 18, 2021Don't forget to tune in on @YouTube to the @ConstitutionDAO's bidding war for the U.S. Constitution sale LIVE on @Sothebys.

🤝 (📜,📜)

🔴 Live in ~90 minutes here:

One bid — and it all comes tumbling down.

The auction day was November 18. Everything was set up. The bids were received. An unknown investor bid $43.2M. The representatives of the ConstitutionDAO decided not to outbid this price. And it was all lost to the unknown investor.

The US Constitution became one of the most expensive historical document that was ever sold at an auction.

The question that was being asked around was — why did the DAO not outbid the $43.2M? Where did it fail?

One possible argument that was circulated within the Discord of the community was that even after buying the Constitution, they would not have enough funds to securely store it and do "proper care and maintenance" that was required from the custodian of the Constitution.

The other reasonable argument is that everyone was too caught with getting (literally) the parchment itself and had not thought about what would happen if they had won the bid. The idea, since inception, was to create a community around a shared purpose - it was never discussed what would actually happen when that purpose was fulfilled. However, as the core representatives of the DAO wrote in the Discord chat, they despite losing the bid, they had indeed won something much more valuable as there were many "firsts".

Nov. 19, 2021 — Records Broken, History Made

— ConstitutionDAO (📜, 📜) (@ConstitutionDAO) November 19, 2021We didn't get the Constitution, but we made history nonetheless.

We broke records for the largest crowdfund for a physical object and most money crowdfunded in 72h, which will of course be refunded to everyone who participated.

To all our 17,437 contributors, THANK YOU ❤️

For the first time, Sotheby's had worked with a DAO community.

For the first time, an exorbitant amount of money was raised in less than three days.

For the first time, museum creators, artists, collectors and everyday enthusiasts got to know about what a DAO actually is — and also witness its power.

For the first time, people from all over the world had a chance to participate in the buying of the Constitution of a country that they personally had no connection with.

— beeple (@beeple) November 19, 2021valiant effort @ConstitutionDAO. I think this is the beginning of something big.


While these points are certainly helpful for the overall growth of the crypto community, they still fail to address the core question about what the exact reason behind not attempting to outbid was. There were rumors of the DAO getting rugged given that it had so much capital which was of absolutely no use. The core members of the DAO, however, quashed those rumors saying that every single member of the community could withdraw their ETH back into their wallets.

What Happened to the Money Locked in ConstitutionDAO?

— ConstitutionDAO (📜, 📜) (@ConstitutionDAO) November 27, 2021Hi frens! As mentioned before, we are winding down ConstitutionDAO. It was a beautiful experiment, but some things are meant to have an end.

We want to reiterate that you all have 2 options on what to do with juicebox:

All the money were decided to be returned. Investors/contributors had the option to request for a refund after the failed fund. While some members said that they wanted to leave their funds in the wallet itself, some were thinking of withdrawing it completely.

In a Twitter Spaces session following the loss, some members were even considering saving these funds for future bids. A member even suggested bidding on politicians! Another contributor suggested doing something "equally as epic."

Staying true to the core tenets of a DAO, all of them had the option to do whatever they wanted with their funds. However, if any investor decides to not withdraw their funds, then the ConstitutionDAO will retain custody of them - but they haven't specified what exactly is going to happen to those funds in the future.

Since then, it has been reported that about half of the funds that were collected have been successfully returned — which is roughly $27M of the total funds that were raised. About $23M are still with the DAO and are awaiting the decision from the individual contributors/investors.

The DAO has not specified any duration in which the investors can get their funds back — which means if some investor is speculating whether there might be some future action can feel free to leave their funds as is. However, the ConstitutionDAO has clearly stated that it has "run its course."

A primary issue that most investors who are thinking of withdrawing their fees are facing is that of transaction fees. The transaction costs on Ethereum are increasing and for those investors who had contributed not more than $50 are required to pay upwards of $10 for just the gas fees. This means they are losing almost 1/3rd of their funds (gas fees need to paid while depositing and withdrawing).

Gas costs on Ethereum have always been a bone of contention for several Ethereum users. They tend to go excessively high when the network is being used heavily and sometimes when you need to do a transaction of $50, you have to spend north of $25 just for sending it across! That is why some smaller contributors have lost almost half of their investment because of this.

It has been reported that over $1M have already been spent on gas costs from contributions to the ConstitutionDAO. On the flipside, large contributors (who have invested upwards of $100K) do not really bother paying the $50 or even a three-figure gas cost because of the amount.

That said, most contributors are appreciating the fact that the ConstitutionDAO is checking all the boxes of what a DAO actually is.

What Happened to $PEOPLE?

PEOPLE is the governance token of ConstitutionDAO. Despite the closure of the DAO itself, the DAO token rose by almost 200%. This happened on the back of falling trading volumes and shrinking liquidity.
Several speculators revealed that the DAO token had pumped almost 4x even after the DAO was considered wholly dissolved.

Governance tokens in DAOs bestow power to their users to have influence over all the decisions that the DAO makes. Naturally, the more governance tokens you have the more impactful your influence is over the entire community.

With the ConstitutionDAO, however, there weren't instances where $PEOPLE was actually used as a means of making decisions. Several from the crypto community are likening this token to a memecoin, because it seems to be soaring without any fundamental reason behind it.

Did the ConstitutionDAO Fail?

— ConstitutionDAO (📜, 📜) (@ConstitutionDAO) November 19, 2021We showed the world what crypto and web3, onboarding thousands of people in the process, including museum curators and art directors who are now excited to keep learning.

We were the first DAO @Sothebys has ever worked with, but we're sure we won't be the last one.

It wouldn't make sense for us to say that the ConstitutionDAO failed. In fact, it succeeded in doing exactly what it had set out to do — gather round a community for a shared purpose, give them something to believe in, raise capital from contributors who were truly inspired and keep repeating this process. These targets are still listed on the official website.

Furthermore, the core driver of the entire community was the idea of buying the US Constitution and not actually buying it. As mentioned above, there were no discussions around what would happen if the sale would be completed successfully. The logistics for that had not been figured out at all. And for a community of over 55K followers with (predictably) most of them having some amount of fractional ownership over the constitution meant that decision would have taken a really long time before anything could be finalized.

That said, it did manage to rattle the entire crypto community with its passion. And as a consequence of what it did, inspired several other DAOs that are aiming to do something similar.

New DAOs on the Block

Several other conceptual DAOs have sprung up in the wake of the ConstitutionDAO each claiming to do something revolutionary.

A "research" DAO fund has been created, known as Abolition in Progress, which won the bid for the Declaration of the AntiSlavery Convention. It is an incredibly seminal document that founded the American abolitionist movement in 1833. The pre-sale were estimates were ranging from $3000 to $5000 but Sotheby's finally sold it for the winning bid of $21,420. Some members of the crypto community, however, have highlighted that Abolition in Progress is not (yet) a DAO. In fact, it has been said that a group of crypto enthusiasts came together to buy the document of such significance.
Another DAO named Krause House, launched earlier this year, has been created with the objective of buying an NBA team. It has already started its crowdfunding by selling NFTs. In this case, the NFTs represent a special entry "ticket" to the DAO's Discord, some exclusive events and the allocation of KRAUSE (its native token). The overall goal is to raise $4.1M out of which $1.7M have already been raised.

DAOs have certainly entered mainstream suddenly because of all the hype around ConstitutionDAO. It seems that what NFTs did a few months ago, DAOs are doing today (albeit at a much smaller scale).

Closing Thoughts

— Dame.eth (@jacksondame) December 4, 2021

DAOs represent a crucial step forward in the creation and proliferation of communities. The idea that everyone can participate in the decision-making has now boiled down to an enticing marketing narrative for several political entities.

A DAO, on the other hand truly gives people the power to influence the decisions of the community. However, there's a catch. The more governance tokens that a member has, the more influence he has over the DAO. We have already seen this with the Curve Wars — if you manage to bribe enough governance token holders, you can have a majority say on influential decisions.

There's another point in context of ConstitutionDAO that we haven't explored. All the decisions about bidding, not bidding and finally deciding to refund the amount were taken by a small group of representatives/core members. In essence, thus, the governance token holders of the ConstitutionDAO did not have any say over what decision needed to be taken. This has not only been disappointing to some, but some have even questioned the decentralized nature of such an entity.

— Museum of Crypto Art 🕳🐇 (@MuseumofCrypto) November 22, 2021it speaks volumes that a billionaire won the US Constitution as opposed to the 17,437 people who rallied together to try and secure this monument to freedom

regardless, well-played @ConstitutionDAO 👏

the people's time is coming ✊
It was later learned that the bid was won by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin — the founder of Citadel. He was already notorious among the "retail" community over the GameStop RobinHood payment for order flow drama earlier this year, and perhaps one could see this as, once again, denying the masses.
— davidev.eth🦇🔈 (@davidesilverman) December 9, 2021No one spoke to Ken or anyone affiliated with him prior to the auction.

Not the first billionaire to lie, won’t be the last.

Despite the arguable shortcomings, there was no denying that this was a major step in the right direction. It has showcased what the power of blockchain technology and web 3.0 could do when the community rallies around it. Several external factors notwithstanding, there is almost a sense of burning passion for forming anonymous communities on the Internet — communities that was able to organize, coordinate and put to use monetary and intellectual capital towards a common goal.

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