LICHFIELD, U.K. – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the British first edition of the first Harry Potter book, has become a Holy Grail for collectors of a certain age. On Monday, July 10 – mere weeks before the fictional boy wizard marks his July 31 birthday, which he shares with author J.K. Rowling – the rare book performed magic again, this time at auction in England. An ex-library copy purchased for the equivalent of 38 cents sold for a hammer price of around $13,500. An American bidder participating via thesaleroom.com came away victorious.
Bought for 30 pence/US 39 cents after being withdrawn from Wolverhampton Library in England, the hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was offered by Richard Winterton Auctioneers at the Lichfield Auction Centre, Fradley Park, achieving a hammer price of £10,500 ($13,535).
Published by Bloomsbury in 1997 with a laminated board cover, the book is one of only 500 first edition first impressions and, of those, one of only 300 sent to libraries.
The sale attracted international interest, with the winning bid placed via the Internet from Los Angeles. The book was estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,870-$6,445) due to its “much-loved conditio”’ as an ex-library book.
Auctioneer Richard Winterton said: “We’re absolutely delighted with this result. The first in the original series of books by J.K. Rowling, this copy has clearly been well-read and still has its library identification sticker, spine sticker with the letter J, withdrawal stamp and 30p selling price.”
The book was part of the personal collection of a Staffordshire man who had a lifelong passion for books and ephemera.
He lived in Brereton, Rugeley, for a number of years before moving to Chase Terrace, Burntwood, and died unexpectedly at the beginning of the year at the age of 55.
Auctioneers discovered the book after a painstaking search of hundreds of boxes of his belongings.
The man’s sister, who asked that she not be identified by name, said before the sale: “He started dealing in books and memorabilia when he was still at school. He would go to jumble sales and church fairs and would come back with a pile of annuals or comics. He would then take them to a second-hand shop in Hednesford to sell or take them in to school to swap with friends.
“That was his passion from an early age onwards.”
The family knew that he had acquired a valuable Harry Potter book but feared it had gone astray. “When he moved house four years ago he literally put everything into hundreds of boxes, many of which went into containers,” his sister added. “We knew that he had got the book but if you asked him to pinpoint it he couldn’t. So for the last four years this book has been ‘lost’ and I think we had come to the conclusion that it had disappeared into the ether somewhere.”
How to identify a British first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:
First, check that the publisher is Bloomsbury and the latest date listed in the copyright information is 1997.
The print line on the copyright page must read “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.”
The rarest of the first printings is the hardback issue, with a cover of laminated boards. Only 500 copies were bound this way, 300 of which were sent to libraries.
Examine the back cover – there should be an ‘o’ missing from the word ‘Philosopher’s.’
In the first edition, page 53 features a list of school supplies Harry receives from Hogwarts. The item ‘1 wand’ appears twice, once at the beginning and once at the end. This mistake was corrected in the second printing – although, curiously, it did reappear in some later printings.
Article courtesy of Antiques Trade Gazette.