First edition of JK Rowling's book about boy wizard sells for £70k

Potter gold! Rare first edition of JK Rowling’s book about boy wizard Harry sells for £70,000 – 25 years after owner nearly returned it to bookshop demanding his £12.99 back

  • Rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was auctioned at Hansons
  • The mint condition novel was in the first run of 500 that were printed in 1997 
  • It contains the original spelling typos and spent 25 years lying unread on a shelf 
  • Retired paper merchant director, 68, only kept the book ‘on the toss of the coin’

A perfectly preserved first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone left untouched on a shelf for 25 years has fetched £69,000 at auction. 

J.K Rowling’s first Potter novel has been republished countless times but the book’s success was far from assured when the 500 copies printed for its first edition appeared in shops in 1997. About 300 were given to libraries and schools and the remaining 200 to bookshops.

They contain several typing errors including ‘one wand’ being printed twice on a list of items Harry needs for Hogwarts on page 53. 

The misprint ‘Wizardry and and witchcraft’ can also be seen on the back cover – a subtle variation of the title for ‘Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry’ which features in the novel.

The collector, who paid £12.99 for the book at the time, almost returned it to the bookshop where he bought it from as it didn’t come with a dust jacket – which he mistakenly believed was a fatal flaw.

He decided to keep it on ‘the toss of a coin’ and left it on a shelf, where it has been stored in darkness, left unread, unopened and in a protective sleeve ever since.

It had been expected to fetch between £40,000 to £60,000 when it went under the hammer today at Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall Derbyshire – but the ‘as-good-as-new’ copy sold for a whopping £69,000 to an anonymous online bidder in the USA. 

A perfectly preserved first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone left untouched on a shelf for 25 years has fetched £69,000 at auction

J.K Rowling’s first Potter novel has been republished countless times but the book’s success was far from assured when the 500 copies printed for its first edition appeared in shops in 1997. About 300 were given to libraries and schools and the remaining 200 to bookshops

The 68-year-old seller, a retired paper merchant director, said he only kept the book ‘on the toss of the coin’ after believing it had a fatal flaw.

The unnamed collector, from West Sussex, said: ‘It didn’t have a dust jacket and I thought it should.

‘I was really disappointed when I went to pick it up. I’m a collector and, being a first edition, I expected it to have one.

‘I decided to keep the book on the toss of a coin. It was a moment of destiny. I remember standing in the doorway debating whether to keep it.

‘I took it home and tucked it away in darkness on a high book shelf to keep it from prying eyes but, more importantly, because the paper in the book is poor quality. I was told to keep it away from sunlight to prevent it going brown.

‘I’ve really looked after it. It’s in the best condition it possibly can be – almost perfect I would say. It’s never been read.’ 

Auctioneer Charles Hanson, a regular on the BBC’s Bargain Hunt, oversaw the sale at Bishton Hall in Staffs. He said: ‘This is probably the best copy we have ever seen. 

‘Its condition is quite phenomenal. It’s immaculate – unsurpassed. It’s been an honour to handle it.’ 

Meanwhile, another first edition copy which has picture doodles on its front endpapers by its child owner also sold for a hammer price of £15,500 today at Hansons. 

The drawings, which depict Harry Potter and Hagrid, affected the overall value of the book. 

The seller, a Manchester businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘I didn’t realise it was a first edition when I bought it.

It had been sat on the anonymous seller’s bookshelf for 21 years when the owner decided to check and see if it was a rare copy. Pictured: A true first edition copy has a duplication of ‘1 wand’ on page 53 (file image)

There are a number of way to determine whether it is a first edition copy of the Philosopher’s Stone, including the issue number on the copyright page reading ’10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1′ (file image)

‘I just spotted the back cover with the image of the wizard and thought it looked interesting. It was only 50p. I found it in one of those traditional charity shops packed with boxes.

‘Around Christmas time, I decided to contact Hansons Auctioneers to check whether it was a first edition. They confirmed that it was – a nice surprise to say the least.’

Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer said: ‘In essence, we have two first issue hardbacks – one carefully preserved and unread, the other thoroughly enjoyed and read to death.

‘When it comes to condition, we’re looking at two very different books. One is like new, as good as it gets.

‘The other has been read until it broke, enjoyed countless times, even joyfully illustrated by its young fan.

‘I suppose it’s a lesson in what not to do with a Harry Potter first edition – don’t scribble all over it then give it away.

‘But the people who originally owned it would have had no idea of its potential value today. It was bought for a child to enjoy and love.’     

The £69,000 sale of the uber-rare first edition was kept safe after the collector, of West Sussex, stashed it away safely when he realised how popular the title was getting at his daughter’s school.

He added: ‘A year after I bought it, with Harry Potter excitement growing at my daughter’s school, she asked if she could read it. I said no, absolutely not.

J.K Rowling’s (pictured) first Potter novel has been republished countless times but the book’s success was far from assured when the 500 copies printed for its first edition appeared in shops in 1997. About 300 were given to libraries and schools and the remaining 200 to bookshops

How can you spot a true Harry Potter first edition? 

Only around 500 first edition copies of JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel were printed, with 300 sent to schools and libraries.

Like this anonymous seller’s copy, a true first edition is laden with a specific series of errors.

Past stating it is a ‘first edition, first impression’ from no later than 1997, the book will also have: 

– The issue number on the copyright page reads ’10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1′;

– ‘1 wand’ appears twice in a list on p.53;

– ‘Philosopher’s’ is misspelled as ‘Philospher’s’ on the rear cover;

– ‘Witchcraft and Wizardry’ is incorrectly written ‘Wizardry and Witchcraft’ on the rear cover. 

‘Instead, I bought her another copy and a later issue of The Chamber of Secrets – both in the Harry Potter Gift Set slipcase. My daughter’s copy of Philosopher’s Stone was a fourth issue – with a dust jacket.

‘So, I put that on my first edition to protect it and tucked it away together with my Chamber of Secrets first edition, also protected by the slipcase.

‘They have always been kept separate from my main books collection and hidden in the house. I started collecting books in my 40s. I worked for a paper company and mixed with people in the books fraternity.

‘I used to go out at lunchtime looking for rare finds and got hooked. I have quite a big books collection.’

He also said he will use the proceeds of the £69,000 sale to pay off his mortgage, which was why he decided to sell the book in the first place. 

He added: ‘In recent years, I noticed Philosopher’s Stone first editions were selling well at auction but, as mine didn’t have a dust jacket, I didn’t think it could achieve those prices.

‘Eventually I realised a dust jacket was not specified. Now I’ve reached the time of life when it would be useful to pay off the mortgage so I’ve decided to sell.

‘It’s not easy to part with. Collectors have difficulty selling their prized possessions.’

Expert Mr Spencer added: ‘The owner travelled a long way to see me. We sat down and made ourselves comfortable, but I was nervous about removing the book’s jacket.

‘I receive countless Potter enquiries every single day, but this one had grabbed me and I hoped it would be right.

‘My only fear was that it was too good to be true. I inspected the book closely, again and again, comparing it with two other first issues of the same work, studying the covers and text with a magnifying glass.

‘Everything added up perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. It was like stepping back in time to 1997.’ 

First editions have massively gained in value over the years, but these two did not come close to the current world record price of £356,000 paid for a mint condition first edition in the US last December.   

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