A Harry Potter hardback first edition rescued from a skip sparked an international bidding battle at auction (May 21) – and smashed its estimate to smithereens.
The copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was salvaged from a school skip in Buckinghamshire together with a handful of other Potter paperbacks, had an estimate of £8,000-£12,000.
Despite signs of wear and tear, it soared to success when it went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers – a firm renowned for its Potter sales success.
Seven telephone bidders battled with internet bidders in a tense auction sale which saw the hammer finally fall at £33,000. It was brought by a private UK buyer. The book, one of only 500 hardback copies from the first print-run in 1997, is the third copy found by Hansons in the last 12 months.
The seller, a 65-year-old teacher and grandmother who did not wish to be named, said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement. Due to its condition, we thought £20,000 would be a good result. We watched the auction and the price just kept going up and up.”
The sale, a Harry Potter bonanza packed with J K Rowling-related lots, also included four other books plucked from the skip. These included two Philosopher’s Stone paperback first editions which sold for £3,400 and £3,000 respectively. In addition, first edition copies of Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban made £360. The skip finds made a combined hammer price total of £39,760.
Jim Spencer, head of Hansons’ Library Auction, said: “I’m delighted for our vendors. It was marvellous to see the Harry Potter books do so well and spark such intense bidding. I always thought the Philosopher’s Stone hardback first edition might surprise us. I put on a humble estimate due to some damage to the binding.
“We had lots of interest, particularly from America, in what was a special Harry Potter-themed Library Auction. In all, we sold 18 Potter/Rowling lots which fetched a total hammer of £60,800. Another highlight was a Philosopher’s Stone paperback first edition in pristine condition which made £6,500.”
The skip finds would have been lost in landfill but for the actions of the Bucks school teacher who couldn’t bear to see them go to waste when she spotted them in a skip where she used to work in 2008.
She said: “I love books and reading and it just seemed awful to throw them away, so I picked up about five Harry Potter books. I thought they might be useful for my children or grandchildren in the future. It was better than seeing them go to waste.
“At the time, I had no idea they were of any value, and neither did the school. They’d been well read and the school always ensured its library was pristine for Ofsted inspections. There were lots of other things in the skip, too.
“I think the school originally had 10 Harry Potter hardback first editions. I don’t know what happened to the other nine.
“I took the books home and they ended up in the loft. Then about four years ago my son told me he thought the books might be valuable. He investigated and a London business offered £4,000 for one of the paperbacks there and then. But they just went back into the loft.
“Last year we were watching a TV interview with Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, about the sale of a Harry Potter first edition which sold for thousands at auction and decided to get in touch.”
Mr Spencer said: “We’ve had phenomenal success in both finding and selling Harry Potter books in the last 12 months. Hardback first editions of Philosopher’s Stone are as rare as hens’ teeth. They’re the holy grail for collectors, so I was amazed to find one last summer (2019).
“It was a former Staffordshire library book bought at a tabletop sale for £1 and it made £28,500 at auction in July (2019). That led to many Potter finds and sparked around 50 emails a day from people all over the world who thought they might have a first edition.
“Unbelievably, it also led to the discovery of another hardback Philosopher’s Stone first edition last year which, because it was in better condition than the first, sold for a total price, with buyer’s premium, of £57,040. It was brought to me in a locked briefcase by a Lancashire family. I felt like I was dealing in smuggled diamonds. To find a third was amazing – just another 497 to go.”
Of the 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone printed in 1997, around 300 were sent to British schools and libraries and some reached private book shops. They all contain various printing errors, corrected in later versions. The three copies found by Hansons hav made a combined total of £107,500.
The books were sold on May 21 by Hansons Auctioneers. To find out more or arrange a free valuation, email [email protected].