Pa. Man Finds Rare Copy of Declaration at a Flea Market - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Pa. Man Finds Rare Copy of Declaration at a Flea Market

Collector believes his copy of the Declaration of Independence was made through a 19th-century printing process that damaged the original

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Man Finds Declaration of Independence

    A local man stumbles onto a piece of history at a flea market. He says it's a valuable copy of the Declaration of Independence. (Published Monday, July 4, 2011)

    Buried behind stuff at a flea market, historical collector Tom Lingenfelter saw something that caught his eye.

    “It was a good size Declaration and I liked the kind of beat-up way it looked," said Lingenfelter who serves as President of the Heritage Collector's Society. "And I thought I don’t have one that size. But I probably paid twice as much as I thought it was worth.”

    For $100, he had what’s known as an anastatic facsimile, a 19th century acid duplication process, of the Declaration of Independence. Lingenfelter also says he found information about the destructive copying process in a Philadelphia auction catalog from 1891 that stunned him.

    “It was an anastatic copy printed from the original which caused the damage to the original," Lingenfelter said. "No one ever said that anywhere before…ever.”

    Lingenfelter says he took the copy and the old wood frame it came in to the curator at Independence Hall -- where another anastatic copy resides.

    “We put ‘em on the table and he brought their’s in and laid it next to mine and I had this rush come through me," he said. "I thought 'Wow, do they know what this is? I knew it was good.'”

    So for the first time, Lingenfelter's copy from the original Declaration and the frame, made from beams at Independence Hall, went on display at Moland House in Warwick Township, Pa. The same place where George Washington held his Revolutionary War council.

    “It’s the Declaration of Independence," exclaimed Matthew Nieves-Hoblin after seeing Lingenfelter's Declaration. "I know it’s not the real one. But it’s like, wow!”

     “I’m amazed at that idea that you can stumble upon an incredible historical document at a flea market,” said Matthew's mother Sarai.

    To see a copy of the original Declaration (above left) next to how it looks today (above right) is startling. But Lingenfelter knows it was meant to be found and preserved this July 4th.

    He’ll think about the value later.