IMAGE: Copy of Declaration of Independence
Mandy Lunn  /  The Tennessean
A close-up view shows John Hancock's signature on the 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold Thursday for nearly $500,000.
updated 3/23/2007 7:05:43 PM ET 2007-03-23T23:05:43

A rare 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $477,650 by a man who found it last year in a Nashville thrift store for $2.48.

Michael Sparks, a music equipment technician, sold the document Thursday at Raynors' Historical Collectible Auctions in Burlington, N.C.

Six bidders contended for the document, most by phone or Internet, when bidding opened at $125,000. The identity of the winner was not disclosed.

Sparks found his bargain last March while browsing at Music City Thrift Shop. When he asked the price on a yellowed, shellacked, rolled-up document, the clerk marked it at $2.48 plus tax.

The document turned out to be an "official copy" of the Declaration of Independence — one of 200 commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1820 when he was secretary of state and printed by William Stone in 1823.

Sparks said he had a few plans for the money: a used car, adding a sun room to his house, helping to support his parents and giving some to charity.

"You think it is a huge fortune, but by the time you figure it up and put some off for the taxes it is not. It is not a huge fortune, but more like a small fortune," he said.

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