Harry Potter book bought at table top for £1 sells for more than £34,000

Posted on 31/07/2019 in Press Coverage

A Harry Potter first edition book - bought at a table top sale in Staffordshire for just £1 – has worked its magic to deliver a windfall beyond its owner’s wildest dreams.

The 1997 first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, sold on Harry Potter and author JK Rowling’s birthday (July 31) by Hansons Auctioneers, made a hammer price of £28,500. The total price paid for the book, with buyer’s premium and VAT, was £34,200.

The owner, a 54-year-old office worker 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. When I checked to see if it had sold, I was amazed.”

Jim Spencer, head of books and works on paper at Hansons, said: “It’s a pretty impressive return for a book bought 20 years ago for £1. I’m delighted for the seller, and the buyer, a private UK collector. Three phone bidders battled it out to own this very special first edition in what was a tense battle.”

Such is the global appeal of the Harry Potter books, the classic first edition hard copy, which had a print run of just 500, is so highly sought after by wealthy fans and collectors worldwide one sold for £28,000 in May and another, signed by JK Rowling, made £68,000 at auction.

Mr Spencer said: “I found the book when I was called to a client’s house near Stafford to value three boxes of books. There it was – the holy grail of Harry Potter books. I was so excited. Every book valuer dreams of finding one of these.

“I was slightly caught in disbelief when I first saw it. I receive calls every week from people saying they have a first edition Harry Potter. In fact, when news of this discovery broke, I was receiving 50 emails a day. But most copies can invariably be ruled out in seconds.

“The one we found was a former Staffordshire Library book. It was stamped ‘withdrawn from stock’. The vendor came across it around 20 years ago at a table top sale. Various old books were being sold off and the owner bought a handful for £1 each for the family to read on holiday.

“They weren’t sure if it was a Harry Potter first edition but I soon established it was thanks to some typographical errors that particular version is renowned for.”

The seller said: “I bought the book along with three or four others to read on holiday about 20 years ago. I thought nothing of it at the time. I read the book, in fact I’ve read all the Harry Potter series, and then put it away in a cupboard for years.

“I decided to get some books valued and invited Jim Spencer over to take a look. When I realised it’s potential value, I hoped it might raise more than enough money to buy a nice new bathroom.”

Mr Spencer said: “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. The majority of the books in that first print run went to schools and libraries. They are extremely rare.

“This is a landmark in children’s literature, but it appeals to young and old. Everybody knows this book. This is the holy grail for so many collectors.”

The book was first published by Bloomsbury on June 30, 1997 after being rejected by several publishers. Those first editions can be identified by two typographical errors. The back page misspells philosopher’s – it reads philospher’s - and on P53 a list of equipment mentions ‘1 wand’ twice. Author JK Rowling’s name also appears as Joanne Rowling.

“It was incredible checking off all those issue points and seeing them for myself, one by one,” said Mr Spencer. By pure luck, our Library Auction was scheduled for July 31 – Harry Potter and J K Rowling’s birthdays. I think Harry Potter must have waved his wand over us. Some things are just meant to be.”

The Harry Potter book was sold on July 31 at Hansons’ Library Auction, Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, ST17 0XN. To find out more, email [email protected]