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First edition Harry Potter book could smash records at auction

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The first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone . (Hansons via SWNS)

By Bradley Stokes via SWNS

A Harry Potter first edition which has been kept in pristine condition for 25 years since its owner almost returned it to a bookshop is set to fetch a record-breaking £100,000 ($135,545) at auction.

The hardback copy of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" has been stored in darkness, unread, unopened and in a protective sleeve since it was bought in 1997.

But its owner almost let the valuable book slip through his fingers after he nearly returned it to ask for his £12.99 ($17.61) back - because it didn't have a dust jacket.

Jim Spencer has gained a global reputation for Harry Potter books finds and has assessed countless books. (Hansons via SWNS)
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Now, the "as-good-as-new" novel, one of only 500 printed, could smash all records at auction to fetch a spell-binding six figure sum when it is sold next month.

The seller, a retired paper merchant director, aged 68, from West Sussex, England said he pre-ordered the book from Leatherhead Bookworm in Surrey almost three decades ago.

And he revealed how he almost contemplated asking for his money back because he thought it had a fatal flaw and only kept it "on the toss of a coin."

The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It didn’t have a dust jacket and I thought it should.

“I was really disappointed when I went to pick it up. I’m a collector and, being a first edition, I expected it to have one.

"I decided to keep the book on the toss of a coin. It was a moment of destiny.”

It was only years later he discovered that Philosopher’s Stone hardback first issues didn't come with a dust jacket.

He added: “Leatherhead Bookworm, one of those magical old books shops, no longer exists but I still hear from the man who sold me the book.

"He likes to remind me that I nearly had my money back just because it didn’t have a slip cover. I remember standing in the doorway debating whether to keep it.

“I took it home and tucked it away in darkness on a high book shelf to keep it from prying eyes but, more importantly, because the paper in the book is poor quality.

"I was told to keep it away from sunlight to prevent it going brown.

“I bought that first issue of Philosopher’s Stone because I noticed an advert for it in a magazine called Bookseller in 1997.

The first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.(Hansons via SWNS)

"It compared JK Rowling’s book to the Famous Five novels and predicted it could be a prize winner.

"I loved reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books when I was a child – and I liked them to have a dust jacket.

“I’ve really looked after it. It’s in the best condition it possibly can be – almost perfect I would say. It’s never been read.

"A year after I bought it, with Harry Potter excitement growing at my daughter’s school, she asked if she could read it. I said no, absolutely not.

“Instead, I bought her another copy and a later issue of The Chamber of Secrets – both in the Harry Potter Gift Set slipcase.

"By that time, I’d also acquired a mint first issue of Chamber of Secrets, which I am also auctioning.

“My daughter’s copy of Philosopher’s Stone was a fourth issue – with a dust jacket.

"So, I put that on my first edition to protect it and tucked it away together with my Chamber of Secrets first edition, also protected by the slipcase.

"They have always been kept separate from my main books collection and hidden in the house.

“I started collecting books in my 40s. I worked for a paper company and mixed with people in the books fraternity.

"I used to go out at lunchtime looking for rare finds and got hooked. I have quite a big books collection.

“In recent years, I noticed Philosopher’s Stone first editions were selling well at auction but, as mine didn’t have a dust jacket, I didn’t think it could achieve those prices.

"Eventually I realized a dust jacket was not specified. Now I’ve reached the time of life when it would be useful to pay off the mortgage so I’ve decided to sell.

"It’s not easy to part with. Collectors have difficulty selling their prized possessions.”

The copy will be sold by Hansons Auctioneers on March 9 with an estimate of £40,000 to £60,000 ($54,218- $81,327) but it is likely to fetch much more.

Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer said: “The owner travelled a long way to see me.

"We sat down and made ourselves comfortable, but I was nervous about removing the book's jacket.

"I receive countless Potter enquiries every single day, but this one had grabbed me and I hoped it would be right.

“My only fear was that it was too good to be true. I inspected the book closely, again and again, comparing it with two other first issues of the same work, studying the covers and text with a magnifying glass.

"Everything added up perfectly. I couldn't believe it. It was like stepping back in time to 1997.”

Jim has sourced and sold 14 hardback first issues of Philosopher’s Stone with prices ranging from £17,000 to more than £60,000 dependent on condition.

In December 2021 a near pristine hardback first edition of Philosopher’s Stone sold for $471,000 (£349,186) from a $70,000 estimate at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, USA.

The first editions of Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were both kept safe inside a Gift Set cover. (Hansons via SWNS) .

It’s the highest price ever paid for the boy wizard’s debut in any form and set a modern literature world record.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “It would be amazing to beat the price achieved in America with this near perfect, as-good-as-new Potter first edition.

"Our guide price is £40,000-£60,000, roughly the same as the estimate put on the book sold in Dallas.

"I’d like to think our copy could achieve £100,000 – or, better still, smash the world record.

“It’s in fantastic, bright condition. It should spark interest from collectors all over the world.

"It could well be the most pristine hardback first issue of Philosopher’s Stone ever offered at auction.

"Let’s hope we can achieve a new world-record price in Britain, the place where the Potter phenomenon was born.”

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