A pristine first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was left on a shelf for 25 years. On Wednesday, March 9th, it went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire for a whopping £69,000.
Today, J.K Rowling’s renowned book series about the young wizard has been republished countless times. But its success was not always assured. Only 500 copies were printed for the first edition in 1997. A mere 200 of those were to be sold in bookshops, with the remaining 300 books distributed to schools and libraries.
First edition Harry Potter prints can be discerned through several typing mistakes. This includes a typo on the back cover spelling out “Wizardry and and witchcraft”, and “1 wand” appearing twice on page 53 as part of the list of school supplies Harry has to acquire before going to Hogwarts.
When he first purchased the book, the 68-year-old book collector from West Sussex paid £12.99 for it. He admits that he almost returned it to the bookshop, as the copy did not come with a dust jacket, but ended up keeping it “on the toss of a coin”. He then wrapped the first edition in a new dust jacket and stored it on his bookshelf, unopened and in darkness, thereby preserving its perfect condition.
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.”
The book was estimated to make between £40,000 to £60,000 at the auction. It surpassed all expectations when it sold to an anonymous bidder from the USA for an incredible £69,000 instead.
Auctioneer Charles Hansen oversaw the sale at Bishton Hall. He commented that “this is probably the best copy we have ever seen. Its condition is quite phenomenal.” This is especially exceptional since the book’s original paper is of quite poor quality. It would have turned brown upon exposure to any sunlight.
The revenue made at the auction will be used to pay off the anonymous collector’s mortgage. The considerable sum will certainly do for that purpose. Still, it fails to come close to the current world record price for a Harry Potter book, held by a mint-condition first edition sold in America last December for £356,000.
Words by Joanna Fragoulis
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