Say it ain't so, Jo! In a series of tweets on Friday, J.K. Rowling revealed that your beloved, signed Harry Potter book's fake, probably. Rare book dealers may see an uptick in business as Potterheads scramble to verify their copies in the wake of this news.
The world of book theft and forgery is pretty fascinating, if only because the crimes are incredibly easy to get away with. As Paste observes, "[a] stolen painting leaves an obvious blank spot on a wall, but a stolen book leaves an easily-filled gap on a bookshelf." It could take years for a seller to notice that a book has gone missing, and — because a book is generally just one among hundreds or thousands in a printing — tracking down a particular copy can wind up being a needle-in-haystack search.
Of course, Rowling's not talking about theft, but about forged signatures on legitimate copies of her books. It's nearly impossible to prevent autograph forgeries, but that doesn't mean that people who deal in books don't take the crime seriously. The Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America says its "members have worked with local law enforcement agencies, FBI, Homeland Security and Interpol in efforts against biblio‐crime."
Now, forging a signature on a set of YA novels and duplicating the artwork of a centuries-old illuminated manuscript may be two facets of the same crime, but the latter is far more likely to be pursued with criminal investigation and prosecution. For that reason, the signed Harry Potter books on the Internet market constitute a case of buyer beware.
Following Twitter user @misty92000's question about the authenticity of signed copies on eBay, user @icenthorns brought up the holographic stickers used to mark genuine articles. Rowling cast doubt on that theory, however, and encouraged anyone in the market for a signed Harry Potter book to consult a reputable dealer and have the copy appraised before buying. The author also noted that some genuine autographs were never authenticated with holographic stickers.
If Rowling's big reveal has you worried that your signed Harry Potter books are fake, you can always contact a specialist or appraiser to have your copies assessed. Yes, these folks do charge for their services, but it's a small price to pay for a little peace of mind. In the process, you might find out that your Harry Potter books are worth money, which means you should absolutely have them insured if you plan to keep them.
Then again, there's nothing wrong with not having your prized Rowling signatures checked for authenticity. After all, your Harry Potter books are still your Harry Potter books, whether the author autographed them or not. And, even if you think they aren't legitimate, it's still OK to go on believing that they are, because, as a very wise wizard once said: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
Image: Warner Bros.