​Harry Potter first edition – £10 bargain-bucket buy – sells for astonishing sum

A Harry Potter first edition – bought for a tenner in 1997 – has achieved an eye-watering sum at auction.

The hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, from the first Potter book print run in 1997, was spotted in a bargain bucket in a shop in the Scottish Highlands 26 years ago. The seller bought it for £10 and even managed to get £2 knocked off the price. She kept in a cupboard under the stairs for years, just like the young Harry Potter who famously lived in a cupboard under the stairs in the Dursley’s house.

The forgotten treasure went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers (December 11) and sold for a total price, with premium, of £55,104 to a private UK online buyer.

Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer said: “It’s a great result for a great find. This was a genuine, honest first issue and a fantastically well-preserved example. It was fresh to market and it deserved to go full steam like the Hogwart’s Express. Of the 500 first issue hardbacks printed, 300 went to schools and libraries in order to reach a bigger audience. This is one of the even scarcer 200 that went to bookshops.”

The delighted seller, a 58-year-old Scottish woman, learned about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone after reading one of the first ever interviews with its author, J K Rowling, in The Scotsman newspaper in the late 1990s.

The recently retired third sector manager said: “I bought the Harry Potter book before anyone really knew much about it, or the author. I found it during a family caravan trip touring round the highlands of Scotland. I discovered a bookshop café on an isolated peninsula after driving miles on a single-track road in the north-west of Scotland.

“I recognised the distinctive book cover straight away. The book seller had placed it in a wicker ‘bargain bucket’ basket on the floor. Because it had no dust jacket, I got a couple of pounds knocked off the price. Our two children enjoyed the wizard tale as a bedtime story all through that holiday in 1997.”

It was a canny move. The first print run of the famous book featured only 500 hardback copies. According to Hansons, they are the rarest and most prized Potter books, the holy grail for collectors. They represent the start of the worldwide Harry Potter phenomenon.

The vendor, who lives just north of Edinburgh where J K Rowling wrote the first Potter book, said: “My children read something online years back about how to identify first editions and told me they thought we had one of them.

“But I said the edition was worthless due to it having no dust jacket. Some time later I learned the book was never released with a dust jacket. At that point, we stored the book away. It lived like the young Harry Potter did, in the cupboard under the stairs.

“I forgot about it for a long time but then read about the rarity of first editions. I decided to contact Jim Spencer, the Harry Potter books expert at Hansons. I wanted to authenticate my copy and find out what it might be worth. My children are grown up now and I thought it was time for someone else to have the pleasure of owning a rare piece of literary history.”

Jim, a world-renowned expert on Potter finds, said: “These first issues are getting harder and harder to find. This must be one of the few remaining copies that’s been in private hands since it was purchased in 1997.

“It’s astonishing it ended up on a remote Scottish peninsula, and it was all down to an article in The Scotsman – and perhaps a dusting of magic – that encouraged the inquisitive and very lucky buyer to pluck it from the bargain bin.

“Most examples are quite badly worn, especially ex-library copies. They’ve often been shared among friends and carried around in school rucksacks, which in some ways is lovely, capturing the buzz of Harry Potter when it first gained popularity. However, more traditional collectors are incredibly fussy about condition, which helped this book fulfil its potential.”

The book is the 19th hardback Philosopher’s Stone first edition out of the original 500 discovered by Jim Spencer. They have sold at auction for between £17,500 and £69,000, plus buyer’s premium, dependent on condition. He has also uncovered numerous paperback first issues which have achieved as much as £8,500.

Auction: The hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold in the December 11 Library Auction at Hansons Auctioneers’ Staffordshire saleroom, Bishton Hall. Price achieved with buyer’s premium £55,104. Hammer £42,000.