Houston man sells rare copy of the Declaration of Independence

Houston man sells rare copy of the Declaration of Independence

HOUSTON, Tx (KTRK/CNN) - A Houston man who had a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence in his office for a decade finally decided to sell it.

He said he didn't think too much of it, but now it's on its way to the Smithsonian.

"Once I found out the information, I started to get a little bit nervous," Michael O'Mara said.

O'Mara always knew his family had a copy of the declaration of independence, but he thought it was nothing special.

"Growing up around these things, it just wasn't that big of a deal."

The document was part of a few heirlooms passed down that are believed to have belonged to President James Madison, who is O'Mara's fifth great uncle. The copy was hidden away in the 1800s eventually making it to a Kentucky closet in the sixties, before ending up in Houston, sitting unseen for 10 years.

"We wrapped it up tight, shipped it to protect it. And then I just left it in my office because I knew it was safe there."

O'Mara said a pocket watch and decanter, which he keeps in a safety deposit box, also belonged to Madison.

But it was the value of the document that surprised him most.

"It has been in my immediate family since the 1960s. We always knew what they were and their heritage but at that point in time they didn't have a lot of value."

He sent it off to The National Archives to be restored. Experts are aware of only about 50 reported similar copies remaining.

O'Mara just sold his copy to a buyer in New York City for an undisclosed amount of money.

There are plans in place for it to be displayed first at the Smithsonian and eventually at a more permanent home.

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