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The world's most expensive Harry Potter books at auction

December 16, 2022

A very rare edition of "The Philosopher's Stone" won by a competition winner sold for £8,000 at auction following a year of record sales for first edition copies.

Two gloved hands holding 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'.
A rare first edition of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'Image: Andrew Matthews/empics/picture alliance

After a pristine first edition copy of J. K. Rowling's first book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," sold in March for £69,000 pounds ($85,118, €80,228), a more obscure edition went under the hammer on Friday (16.12.2022).

Released a decade ago, the 15th anniversary edition of the Harry Potter debut was published exclusively for 15 competition winners and is signed and dedicated by author Rowling.

In 2012, publisher Bloomsbury launched a nationwide competition to find the UK's "biggest Harry Potter fan," with entries invited to make their case in 50 words. One lucky winner of the leather-bound edition was then 16-year-old Chloe Esslemont.

Now her book has been sold for £8,000 at auction in the UK.

"I've kept the book wrapped up in the attic for years," said Esslemont. "Everyone was Potter mad when I was at school. I dressed up as Hermione for World Book Day and my nan knitted me a Gryffindor scarf."

At the age of 26, she decided it was time to let go of her most prized Harry Potter possession.

"I still like the Potter books but I won this prize 10 years ago," she said. "It's been gathering dust and the money would be useful now."

A signed inside cover of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
Chloe Esslemont's signed special edition copy went under the hammer on December 16Image: Hansons Auctioneers

'The rarest Harry Potter I have ever handled'

The special edition was sold by Hansons Auctioneers, which sell rare books and specializes in sought-after Harry Potter editions. 

Hansons' books expert Jim Spencer has built a reputation on his rare Potter finds yet says this book is unique.

"Technically, this is the rarest Harry Potter book I have ever handled — and I have assessed hundreds," he stated on the Hansons website. While copies from among the original 500 hardback copies of "The Philosopher's Stone" from the first-ever print run in 1997 are the most valuable — Spencer has found 18 and sold one near perfect copy for £69,000 in March — "this new find is particularly scarce," he said. 

The first of only 15 books specially published to mark Potter's 15th anniversary to be publicly sold, Spencer said he "traveled from the Midlands to Cumbria, right on the border of Scotland, to collect it."

Despite the book's rarity, is it priced lower than a first edition because it is the first ever sold.

"The value is completely unknown. I haven't found another one for sale, or having sold, anywhere. I don't even think there's even a picture of one online," said Spencer before the sale.

a copy of a Harry Potter book in a red cover
The first copy of the very limited 2012 leatherbound anniversary editionImage: Hansons Auctioneers

A bidding war drove a record sale for a Potter first edition in December 2021 of $471,000 in Dallas, Texas.

With bidding beginning at $75,0edi00, the book sale soon broke records.

"And not only is the most expensive Harry Potter book ever sold, it's the most expensive commercially published 20th-century work of fiction ever sold," said Heritage Auction's executive vice president, Joe Maddalena. "This result shows the power of that combination of literature and cinema."

Harry Potter almost wasn't published

J. K. Rowling's debut was rejected by a dozen publishers before Bloomsbury printed just 500 hardback copies of "Harry Potter: The Philosopher's Stone" in 1997.

Many ended up in public libraries, making it very difficult today to locate first edition copies for potential sale.  

But soon Rowling's character became a household name. Over 120 million copies of the book have since been sold. 

While those few first editions remain the most valuable, one of 15 leather-bound copies printed in 2012 has joined those prized ranks. 

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier

Stuart Braun | DW Reporter
Stuart Braun Berlin-based journalist with a focus on climate and culture.
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