A man who owns around 1,500 Harry Potter books - possibly the biggest collection in the world - is parting with a handful at auction including one bought for a penny which could make thousands.
The book, a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, signed by J K Rowling, cost only 1p plus postage – and the owner had no idea it was so special when he snapped it up online. It’s set to go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on December 12 with an estimate of £1,800-£2,500.
Mark Cavoto, 51, from Buxton, Derbyshire, has bought and sold around 3,000 Harry Potter books over the last 10 years thanks to a chance discovery courtesy of his daughter Holly, now 25.
Father-of-five Mark, who is married to Julie, 51, said: “When Holly was a child, she loved Harry Potter books and started her own collection. About 10 years ago, we decided to sell some of her older books and three of them were snapped up within 20 minutes on eBay for £9.99 each.
This first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, signed by J K Rowling, was bought secondhand for 1p plus postage.
“I’m a businessman with a shop in Buxton and I knew this was a business opportunity. I checked the ISBN numbers and sourced the same three books second-hand on Amazon, bought them for a penny each plus postage and sold them in minutes for £9.99 each on eBay.
“It turned into a business. I started buying Harry Potter books for next to nothing at charity shops and online. I turned them into sets relating to the different editions and sold them on eBay. I currently have around 120 Harry Potter books on eBay.
Mark’s business acumen led to his chance discovery of a book signed by J K Rowling. He purchased it unwittingly for a penny and now it could sell for thousands.
'Oh my God, it's been signed by J K Rowling'
He explained: “I was buying around 10 Harry Potter books a day and Holly liked to open all the Jiffy bags. One day she glanced at a book she’d just opened and said, ‘This is no good, it’s got ink on it’.
“She carried on opening the others then went back to it. She stared at me and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s been signed by J K Rowling – and it’s a first impression’.
“I thought she was messing with me but it was true. It was signed 'To Alexandra (again!) J. K. Rowling' and was a 1998 hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second novel in the series.”
Jim Spencer has been inundated with Harry Potter book finds in 2019.
Mark has had a big win before – one that gave him enough money to start another business. He said: “I bought an edition of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, the first J K Rowling book, from the second print run. It’s as rare as the 500 books in the first print run. I decided to advertise it for £5,000 and an Australian dealer offered £4,600 for the book. I’d paid a penny for it. I snapped his hand off and used the money to start Partworks Collectables.”
The business helps people source items that are missing to complete their collections, whatever it may be, from model ships and trains to Star Wars figures and ships.
Mark said: “I realised through dealing in Harry Potter books that collectors like to have a book from every print run to complete their collections and the same goes for all types of collections.”#
'I help people complete their collections'
For that reason, in Hansons’ library sale, Mark is parting with a set of books consisting of the first 10 hardback editions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, estimate £600-£800.
He’s also selling six copies of the first edition hardback of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first novel in the series published in 1997. These include the third, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth impression – but not the holy grail for collectors, the first impression of the first book.
“I’ve had virtually everything else in the seven-book series except that one,” said Mark.
This year, Hansons has sold two rare first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, one for £28,500 and another in better condition which made a total of £57,040 in October. Only 500 were printed and most went to schools or libraries.
Another client is selling a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows signed by J K Rowling, complete with goody bag from the book signing.
Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons, said: “We’ve had phenomenal success with Harry Potter books this year – so much so I’m still getting about 50 emails a day from people who think their copy may be valuable.
“I’m delighted Mark has come to us with his amazing story and some of his many books. He must have amassed the biggest collection of Harry Potter novels in the world.”
Mark said: “I keep around 1,100 in a warehouse and another 400 at home. They have taken over my office. But this isn’t just about money. The whole thing has been a bit of fun for me and my wife.
Another book signed by J K Rowling is for sale
“The reason I am parting with a few at auction is because I have so many and, apart from the special signed copy, I already have examples of the books I’m selling.”
Jim added: “J K Rowling rarely signs so the book featuring her signature deserves to do really well. If your name is Alexandra and you love Harry Potter, we may have found you the perfect Christmas present.
“It’s not the only signed copy, though. Another client is selling a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows signed by J K Rowling. It comes complete with goody bag from the signing event including a deflated balloon. The Harry Potter magic lives on.”
The Harry Potter books will be sold on December 12 in Hansons’ Fine Art & Library Auction at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffs, ST17 0XN. To find out more or to arrange a free valuation of books or works on paper, email [email protected].