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Norman Lear plans traveling show for U.S. Declaration of Independence
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A rare 1776 copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence will be the focus of a traveling exhibit and patriotic show, television and movie producer Norman Lear said Friday. He and Internet entrepreneur David Hayden bought the document in an online Sotheby's auction Thursday for $8.14 million.
The price was the highest ever paid in a public sale for an American historical document. It was also the highest price for anything purchased in an Internet auction, Sotheby's said.
The document, in near mint condition, is one of 25 known surviving copies of the official first printing of the Declaration adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
"We intend to travel it across the country because it is the living document that set this nation up," Lear said in an interview with CNN. "And it lives today, and those words are for everybody. We want to remind everybody of them."
Lear said that under the auspices of his foundation and advocacy group, People for the American Way, the document would be used in a patriotic "theatrical event" to help "educate and inspire" Americans about the political process.
"Instead of keeping it in private hands on some wall someplace, this will travel to schools, to libraries in 50 states," Lear said.
The final bid was $7.4 million in bidding that extended more than 45 minutes beyond the scheduled deadline of 5 p.m. EDT. With a flat 10 percent commission on its Internet sales, Sotheby's total price came to $8,140,000.
The bidding on www.sothebys.com began at 9 a.m. with an opening bid of $4 million. Lear and Hayden engaged in back-and-forth bids with only one other competitor until 5:47:59 p.m. when the hammer fell on the 29th and final bid.
Under Sotheby's online auction rules, when a bid comes in within the last five minutes of the sale deadline, the auction clock automatically extends for 10-minute periods until no more bids are offered.
The document is one of only four Declaration copies in private hands; the other three have been promised to public institutions.
Twenty-one existing copies already belong to universities, historical societies, public libraries, and city halls.
The National Archives has a copy, along with the original handwritten parchment version that is on display in Washington, D.C.
The document sold Thursday wasn't discovered until 1989, when a Philadelphia man bought a $4 picture at a flea market. He found the document in between a painting and the back of the frame and took it to Sotheby's, which originally auctioned it in 1991 for $2.4 million -- the previous record for an American historical document.
The Declaration buyer from nine years ago -- Visual Equities, a fine art investment firm -- was Thursday's seller. The document had failed to sell at auction in 1995.
Lear has produced numerous hit TV shows, including "All in the Family," "One Day At A Time," "Good Times," and "Maude," and has been the executive producer of such movies as "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "The Princess Bride."
Hayden is chairman of Critical Pass Inc., a wireless messaging company founded in 1997. He was previously a founder of the company that created Magellan, an Internet search engine.
"It's an extraordinary commentary on what the Internet can do," said Hayden of his online purchase, "opening the crossroads around the world for communication between all people."
"The Internet represents a global outreach of communication, and that this document represents the first incredible statement of democracy and liberty in the world is a great -- it's ironic, but it's also a great, momentous convergence of two things happening," Hayden said in the interview with CNN.
The highest known purchase price for any historical document is $30.8 million for Leonardo Da Vinci's "Codex," bought by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at a Christie's auction in 1994.
The largest known financial transaction over the Internet is last year's $40 million purchase of a new Gulfstream V jet by Mark Cuban, Internet entrepeneuer and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
Sotheby's had predicted that Thursday's sale would bring in between $4 million and $6 million.
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