Given the enormous success of Harry Potter today, it may surprise you to learn that the 1997 publication of the first book, The Philosopher’s Stone, didn’t come with a great deal of optimism. In fact, there were only 500 hardback copies produced in the book’s first run, and that run included several pretty obvious typos. Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past 20 years, then you’ll be aware of what a phenomenon the Harry Potter series has become, and as a result, these peculiar first editions are extremely valuable.
As ExpressandStar reports, one very lucky person, who happened to buy a first edition copy of The Philosopher’s Stone for a mere £1 20 years ago, is now set to auction the book for upwards of £28,000. Previous auctions for similar items have attracted similar prices and one signed copy fetched a whopping £68,000. The book is set to be auctioned on July 31st (the birthday of both J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter) and will go on sale at Hansons Auctioneers in Staffordshire.
A book expert at Hansons named Jim Spencer said of the rare find: “I was called to a client’s house near Stafford to value three boxes of books and 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 a few calls every week from people saying they have a first edition Harry Potter, and it can invariably be ruled out in seconds, or it’s one of the titles from later in the series when production was huge because of its success.
“The one we’ve found is a former Staffordshire library book which is stamped ‘withdrawn from stock’, he explained.
The book’s owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, bought the book 20 years ago for £1 at a table top sale for the family to read on holiday.
The first edition hardback is easy to identify thanks to some pretty glaring typos that are found in the book and on its back cover. Page 53 sees ‘1 wand’ listed twice and the back features a misspelling of the word ‘philosopher’.
“The majority of the books in that first print run went to schools and libraries. They are extremely rare,” said Spencer. “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’s owner 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. It’s so exciting to think that a holiday read could be worth so much now. It might raise more than enough money to buy a nice new bathroom.”
Jim Spencer finished by noting the auspicious date of the upcoming auction. “By pure luck, our Library Auction is on July 31 – Harry Potter and J K Rowling’s birthdays.
“Harry Potter must have waved his wand over us. It’s a magical find.”