Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2022 Issue

Harry Potter Book Sells at Auction for Almost Half a Million Dollars

First Harry Potter book sold at Heritage Auctions (Heritage Auctions image).

If there was any doubt that books are now participating in the incredible price growth experienced by other collectibles, that doubt was put to rest at Heritage Auctions last month. We have seen unprecedented price rises in other forms of collectible paper, from baseball cards to comic books this past year. They have sold for prices in the millions. Even these were dwarfed by the astounding price reached for a copy of the first printing of the U. S. Constitution which sold for over $43 million at auction in November. Still, it wasn't quite as clear that traditional books were participating in the extraordinary excitement surrounding collectibles this year.

 

Fear no more. A first edition of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, sold for almost half a million dollars at Heritage Auctions in Dallas on December 9, 2021. The final price all in was $471,000. Heritage described it as not only a record price for a Harry Potter book, but as a world record for modern literature. Harry is only 23 years old.

 

Certainly, Harry has been no slouch when it comes to price of late. His incredible popularity, first in books and then as a movie, is remarkable. Introduced to the world in 1997, he has become a sensation unlike anything else in the book world in a long time. First edition copies have been selling for six figures as far back as 2017, but those were unique copies, signed or inscribed by author J. K. Rowling. It wasn't until 2021 that we saw first editions without such special attributes sell for six figures.

 

Earlier in 2021, four copies achieved six figures. Two sold for approximately $138,000 in U.S. dollars, one in British pounds for a U.S. equivalent practically the same, and another for an equivalent slightly less. Heritage was likely being a bit conservative when they put an estimated price on this copy of $50,000 - $70,000. Still, $471,000 must have been a great surprise to most. That is over three times what it was bringing just a little earlier in the year. This copy does not appear to be significantly different from the copies that sold for $138,000. The paper collectibles market is on fire right now and this is just one more example of what is happening.

 

First editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, even in this, the hardback edition, aren't extremely rare. It was published in 500 copies. What is rare are copies in such pristine condition as those that have sold for six figures. Most of the first edition copies were sent to libraries, and books handled by children and with library stamps are not the ideal condition you want for a collectible book. One such copy sold for about $70,000 in 2021. It is believed around 200 copies went to private collectors rather than libraries. Undoubtedly, many of these were handled by children too. It is not known how many copies in such fine condition are still in existence.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900

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