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Friday, September 28, 2007

History for sale

I have been following with interest the recent news that a 13th Century copy of the Magna Carta -- one of the most important legal documents of all time -- is being sold by H. Ross Perot. H. Ross Perot??? The zany billionaire who went around the country with a bunch of pie charts during an ill-fated third-party campaign for president in 1992? It's not the fact that Perot is selling it that bothers me, but the fact that he owned it in the first place.

This copy of the Magna Carta is apparently one of the most valuable ones because it was the one actually entered on the statute books. Perot is expected to fetch between $20 million to $30 million dollars for it -- not bad since he only paid $1.5 million when he bought it.

The whole affair does give me a good idea about how to clear out the deficit. What if we just started selling historic documents. The Declaration of Independence? That will be $10 billion, Mr. Gates. What's that you say, Mr. Soros, you'd like to buy the U.S. Constitution? No problem. Would you like that with or without the Bill of Rights on the side?

I am not sure what the market is for historic documents from Minnesota, which won't even celebrate its 150th until next year. However if someone can produce an original copy of the state constitution for me, I would be happy to put it up for auction on eBay. Wouldn't it be cool if someone famous like
Paris Hilton bought it?

UPDATE: This post originally contained a link to an article in a U.K. newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, and repeated information reported in that article that Perot had purchased his Magna Carta from the present Earl of Cardigan in 1984. In fact, Perot procured the document from relatives of the 19th Century Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.

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