Staffordshire woman’s magical find makes her £28,500 for ‘holy-grail’ Harry Potter book

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A rare copy of the first Harry Potter book has sold for £28,500 to a mystery buyer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire.

The 1997 original edition was purchased by a private collector from the UK who wishes to remain “absolutely anonymous”.

The seller, an office worker from Staffordshire who also wanted to remain anonymous, picked up the rare book for just £1 at a table-top sale at Staffordshire Library about 20 years ago.  

“I was panicking as there had been no bids prior to the sale. When I checked to see if it had sold, I was amazed,” said the seller.

“I can’t believe it. It’s what I’d hoped for but never really believed my book would make that price.”

The library’s ‘withdrawn from stock’ stamp is still visible inside the cover.

“There were 500 copies printed with errors, so there’s definitely more knocking around somewhere,” said Jill Gallone, from the auctioneers.

“Everybody knows the book because it’s part of popular culture today.

“When you tell people a copy of Wealth of Nations, which is very, very old, sold for £65,000, most people think ‘what is that?’, they’d have to google it. Nobody needs to google Harry Potter.”

The first book in the popular series, which was originally rejected by numerous publishers, went on to be one of the best-selling books worldwide, with over 120 million copies sold.  

The frantic auction at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, saw bids from all over the world, including Japan, China and Canada, with the eventual mystery buyer coming in over the phone from the UK.

Typographical errors occurred in the first 500 copies.

Two typographical errors can be found in the rare first edition, one being the spelling of “Philosopher’s,” which appears as “Philospher’s” on the back cover, as well as the double mention of ‘1 wand’ on page 53.

Before the auction, which coincided with the author J.K. Rowling’s birthday, the book had been stored in a cupboard for almost 20 years, until discovered by auctioneers.

Jim Spencer, head of books and works on paper at Hansons Auctioneers received over 50 emails a day in the run up to the auction from hopefuls who believed they owned a rare edition Harry Potter book.

“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,” said Spencer.

“It captured the hearts and the imaginations of everybody across the world, the whole series, the movies, Harry Potter World.”

The avid collector described a wave of excitement as he saw the first typographical error.

“It was very exciting, but initially disbelief, it’s something that is on your radar all the time as a book specialist. If you ever see a Harry Potter, [book]you automatically check certain things, but become accustomed to never finding them. It seemed too good to be true,” said Spencer.

“When I transported the book from the lady’s house, it was in a sandwich bag. When I got in the car I wrapped it in a jumper and put it in my four-year-old daughters car seat.

“I was amazed really at the condition of it, considering it was a children’s book from a library. That combination can be problematic.”

A few years ago, a similar edition of the rare book would have fetched around £15,000, showing the appeal of the series is not going away.

“Every generation is going to be drawn in and fascinated by the series,” added Spencer.

“Children’s books are good for collecting because you pass them on to your own children.

“Many people have happy memories of being read to by their parents, happy childhood memories and the innocence of childhood, the imagination and everything else.

“I think Harry Potter must have waved his wand over us. Some things are just meant to be.”

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