Harry Potter first edition bought for £1 at table top sale could make £30k at Derbyshire auction

A Harry Potter first edition book - bought at a table top sale for just £1 - is set to bring its owner a windfall that even author JK Rowling would have struggled to imagine.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 12:22 pm
Jim Spencer with the Harry Potter first edition.
Jim Spencer with the Harry Potter first edition.

Such is the global appeal of the Harry Potter books, the classic first edition hard copy, which had a print run of just 500, is so highly sought after by wealthy fans and collectors worldwide one sold for £28,000 in May and another, signed by JK Rowling, made £68,000 at auction.

Now a 1997 first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been unearthed by Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers. Bought 20 years ago for pennies, it enters Hansons’ Library Auction on July 31 – Harry Potter and JK Rowling’s birthdays – with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons, said: “I was called to a client’s house just over the border in Staffordshire 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“The one we’ve found is a former Staffordshire Library book which is stamped ‘withdrawn from stock’. The vendor came across it around 20 years ago at a table top sale. Various old books were being sold off and the owner bought a handful for £1 each for the family to read on holiday.

“They weren’t sure if it was a Harry Potter first edition but I soon established that it was thanks to some typographical errors that particular version is renowned for.”

The owner, a 54-year-old office worker who did not wish to be named, 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.”

Mr Spencer said: “When our client bought the book for £1 all those years ago no-one realised what a huge impact the Harry Potter stories would have globally. The majority of the books in that first print run went to schools and libraries. They are extremely rare.

“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 was first published by Bloomsbury on June 30, 1997 after being rejected by several publishers. Those first editions can be identified by two typographical errors. The back page misspells philosopher’s – it reads philospher’s - and on P53 a list of equipment mentions ‘1 wand’ twice. Author JK Rowling’s name also appears as Joanne Rowling.

“It was incredible checking off all those issue points and seeing them for myself, one by one,” said Mr Spencer. “I’m absolutely delighted for our vendor and I hope the book exceeds all expectations.

“By pure luck, our Library Auction is on July 31 – Harry Potter and J K Rowling’s birthdays. I think Harry Potter must have waved his wand over us. It’s a magical find.”

The Harry Potter book will be sold on July 31 at Hansons’ Library Auction, Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, ST17 0XN. To find out more, email [email protected] Entries invited for the Library Auction until July 5.

The word philosopher is spelt wrong on the back cover.

On page 53, a list of items mentions ‘1 wand’ twice.

On the opening credits page, author JK Rowling is called Joanne Rowling.

The book has a Staffordshire Library book label stamped in red ink with ‘Withdrawn from stock’.