A rare document signed by Button Gwinnett sold for $1.4m (£1.167m).

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He was one the signatories of the Declaration of Independence but anyone wanted to complete a set of the full 56 signers will find him elusive: he was the first of the signatories to die, in 1777.

Gwinnett, a businessman and politician who represented Georgia at the First Continental Congress, lost a duel – fatally –less than a year after the Declaration was issued.

A Gwinnett rare signed document completed an autograph collection of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence that has been purchased by dealer John Reznikoff, president of University Archives in Connecticut, for a price of $1.4m (£1.167m). The source was not revealed.

Reznikoff immediately placed the set with a client. He said: “Gwinnett was among the least known of the signers, so relatively few examples, thought to be as few as 10 in private hands, were preserved and were not considered to have much value. Today, a Button is often the jewel that completes the crown, but purchasing one would cost well over $1m.”

The survivors

Only 51 examples of his signature have known to have survived – most of them attached to unspectacular documents such as mortgage deeds, receipts and debtor’s notes rather than state affairs – and that defines the maximum number of full sets of the signers that can theoretically exist. Reznikoff has sold three complete sets of the signatures and has formed 20 sets missing only Gwinnett.

A Gwinnett July 1776 congressional document offered as part of the James S Copley library at Sotheby’s New York in 2010 realised a premium-inclusive $722,500 (around £485,000). It was one of just eight from the year 1776, one of only four from his term of congressional service, and the closest of all to July 4, 1776.

A signature on a 8 x 3.5cm clip of paper, which had first emerged in 1971, was offered at a Shropshire auction in 2015 but failed to sell.