‘Magical find': Rare Harry Potter first-edition book bought for $1 could sell for up to $34K

A rare first-edition copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” only one of 500 in the world, was bought for about $1, but could now sell for up to $34,000 at a U.K. auction. 

The worn-out hardback copy was published on June 30, 1997 and was bought second-hand about 20 years ago. It was discovered in Staffordshire, U.K. by Hansons Auctioneers and will enter the Hansons’ Library Auction in the same city the book was found on July 31 (both Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthdays). 

“I was called to a client’s house near Stafford 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,” Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons, said in a news release on the auctioneer’s website. “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.”

Spencer said he was “slightly caught in disbelief” when he 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,” he said. “The one we’ve found is a former Staffordshire Library book which is stamped ‘withdrawn from stock’.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 $1.12 each for the family to read on holiday.”

Spencer established that it was the first edition because it had “typographical errors that particular version is renowned for,” which included the misspelling of “Philospher’s” in the back of the book and on page 53, a list of equipment mentions “1 wand” twice, the release said. Famed author J.K. Rowling’s name also appears as Joanne Rowling. Her grandmother’s name is Kathleen, so the author has been using an the acronym J.K. for her first name and her grandmother’s name, Yahoo reported.

“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,” said the 54-year-old office worker who bought the book and wished to remain anonymous. “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.”

Spencer said when his client bought the book all those years ago, “no-one realized 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,” he said. “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 after being rejected by several publishers, according to the release. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.