First-edition 'Harry Potter' book sells for $45,732 at auction

Flawed condition of book likely contributed to disappointing final price

Cover Image for First-edition 'Harry Potter' book sells for $45,732 at auction
With only 500 copies in its original print run, first-edition copies of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" are among the most sought-after books in the world. (Credit: Lyon & Turnbull)

A first-edition copy of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" sold for $45,732 at Lyon & Turnbull on Wednesday morning. The sale marks one of the lowest prices paid for a first-edition copy in recent years, which was likely the result of the condition of the book.

Many copies of the first-edition run went to libraries in England. (Credit: Lyon & Turnbull)
Many copies of the first-edition run went to libraries in England. (Credit: Lyon & Turnbull)

Though the 1997 book would spawn a sprawling multimedia franchise — encompassing films, video games and merchandise eclipsing $34.5 billion in sales — J.K. Rowling struggled to find a publisher willing to take a chance on her first book. Rowling sent the original manuscript to 12 different publishers, each of whom rejected it.

It would take the approval of an 8-year-old girl to finally get the book across the finish line. Bloomsbury Publishing’s Nigel Newton explained in an interview that after Rowling’s agent handed him a copy, he brought it home and handed it to his daughter.

“She came down from her room an hour later glowing,” Newton told the New Zealand Herald in 2005. “Dad, this is so much better than anything else.”

Newton eventually paid Rowling an advance for the book around $3,000, producing only 500 copies of the original print-run, with 300 going to libraries. Due to the extraordinary rarity of these first-edition books, particularly in good condition, they have become the most coveted modern titles in all of book collecting.

The enduring fandom of the franchise, as well as the fact that the original book would end up being printed more than 8 million times, has made examples like these incredibly expensive.

The record price paid for a copy of a first-edition "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" is $421,000, set by Heritage Auctions in a 2021 sale for an extremely well-preserved copy. The book which sold Wednesday contained multiple condition issues, as well as restoration to the title page, which undoubtedly contributed to the final price.

First printings can be identified based on multiple unique characteristics which distinguish itself from later productions, including Rowling’s name spelled out “Joanne” as well as a typo on the back cover which reads “Philosphers.”

Last year, another first-edition copy, purchased for 38 cents from a library in Wolverhampton, England, after it was removed from circulation, was sold for more than $13,000.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.