In Depth

How to spot a rare and valuable Harry Potter book

Original edition of J.K. Rowling’s first Potter book sells at auction for £28,500

A rare first edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has sold at auction in Staffordshire for £28,500.

The hardback children’s book, published by Bloomsbury on 30 June 1997, was bought over the phone by a UK collector, says Sky News.

The book was sold by an office worker who snapped it up for £1 at a table-top sale some 20 years ago. The seller, who did not wish to be named, said: “I can’t believe it. It’s what I’d hoped for but I never really believed my book would make that price.

“I knew another Harry Potter first edition had sold for £28,000 but I was panicking as there had been no bids prior to the sale.”

The book was from the very first print run of 500 copies, most of them destined for schools and libraries, and was identifiable by two printing errors, among other details. It is an edition described as the “Holy Grail” for Harry Potter fans by Potter site Mugglenet.

It sold despite being an ex-library copy – generally something that lowers the value of a first edition – stamped with “withdrawn from stock” in red ink on the inside.

Jim Spencer, from Hansons Auctioneers, said three telephone bidders had battled for the copy, pushing up the price in the process. He added: “When our client bought the book for £1 all those years ago, no one realised what a huge impact the Harry Potter stories would have globally.”

What makes a Harry Potter book valuable?

Mugglenet lists the defining signs for the “Holy Grail” hardback first UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:

  • The publisher name is given as Bloomsbury at the bottom of the title page
  • The date listed in the copyright information is 1997
  • The bottom line of the copyright page should read “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”
  • A list of school supplies on page 53 should include “1 wand” twice

In addition, Sky News says the copy sold this week by Hansons had a misspelling of “Philosopher” on the back cover.

Of course, the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone UK hardback first edition is not the only valuable Harry Potter book. First editions of all the novels are valuable - as are proof editions and other rarities.

Are there forgeries?

Yes, says Mugglenet, there are – so what is needed, to quote Rowling’s character Mad-Eye Moody, is: “Constant vigilance!”

Unethical dealers wanting to create a fake copy can take the copyright page and page 53, the one with the “1 wand” misprint, from a paperback copy and insert them into a hardback second printing copy.

The forger has to be prepared to spend around £5,000 on the two editions required to make the fake – and then cut them up. But the resulting forgery could be passed off for as much as £28,000.

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