Indiana National Guard Capt. Nathan Harlan was a high school junior when he paid $7 for a 1788 first edition of volume one of "The Federalist" — a two-volume book of essays calling for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
The divorced father of three was 16 when he bought the 227-page book in 1990 after his mother spotted it among book stacks as they browsed at a South Bend, Ind., flea market.
The essays were penned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, all of whom used the same pseudonym to focus attention on their pro-ratification arguments.
"It's one of the great political documents to come out of America," Dimunation said. "And the favorite parlor game of the late 18th century was who wrote which essay."
After displaying his find in a shadowbox for 19 years, Harlan decided in April to sell it on eBay in part to make some money but also because no one else in his family appreciated the book.
Harlan owns just a single volume, and its leather cover has been replaced, but the auction house estimates it will sell for $8,000 to $12,000. James Gannon, Heritage's director of rare books, calls that range "very conservative" and says bidding could push the final price between $20,000 and $30,000 because the book is sought-after.
Harlan will get all the proceeds. Heritage is waiving its standard 20 percent seller's commission in recognition of his upcoming service in Iraq. He plans to save most of his auction earnings after paying a few bills.