If you're a die-hard book-lover, chances are you are already pretty weary about lending your favorite titles to friends who promise to return them intact, but rarely do. Now, a recent book heist just might make you extra careful about letting the wrong copy of The Sorcerer's Stone leave the protection of your bookcase, because it turns out your Harry Potter novels are worth more than you think.
According to reports, Italian bookseller Rudolf Schönegger was recently found guilty of stealing a signed first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that was reportedly worth £1,675 — or about $3,358 at time of publication — from Hatchards in London. In footage of the robbery, Schönegger can be seen swapping out the rare edition of Rowling's book for a copy of Late Call by Angus Wilson. During the trial for his crime, it was revealed this was not the first time the book thief had allegedly stolen a valuable work. Schönegger is accused of selling a stolen copy of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway worth over £700 — or $985 — in addition to a stolen first edition of William Golding's Pincher Martin, worth £150, or $211. Apparently, the theft of The Goblet of Fire was just the latest in the book collector and seller's literary crime spree, one that revealed just how valuable Harry Potter books can be.
It's no secret that certain editions of the J.K. Rowling's iconic children's books can fetch a premium price. The revelation that there was a typo in the first edition, hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone pushed prices for the rare book over £20,000 (about $28,000 U.S.). In 2016, a London-based businessman purchased an edition in which the word "philosopher" was spelled incorrectly on the back cover for £43,750, which is over $61,500 in U.S. dollars. Just last year, an unsigned Harry Potter first edition sold for the record-setting price of $81,250 at auction. This is all to say, the right edition of one of Rowling's books can earn muggles a pretty Galleon when sold to the right person. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake signed books out there, Rowling admitted herself in 2016.
If you do happen to have a copy of one of the Harry Potter books with Rowling's real signature in it, you could be holding on to one very expensive edition. According to AbeBooks, an online marketplace for books, arts, and collectibles like signed editions, the average price of a book with Rowling's authentic signature in it is around $1,380. The most expensive first edition of The Philosopher's Stone sold by AbeBooks went for $37,000. They also sold a signed edition of The Deathly Hallows for $5,500, a signed edition of The Prisoner of Azkaban for $6,800, and an entire signed deluxe collection for $11,800. Compare those hefty prices to the less that $20 price tag the books originally had, and you can see just how magical — and profitable — the series has become.
It's not just the Harry Potter series, either: first editions of Rowling's The Casual Vacancy can go for four figures, despite the books initial less-than-stellar reviews. A signed edition of Cuckoo's Calling was sold for $5,295, and even sketches by Rowling raked in $8,000. As long as the author's name is on the cover, and her signature is inside, chances are, Rowling books are worth a lot more than their MSRP.
While there are few Potterheads who would be willing to part with their most prized possessions, those who do choose to sell their rare and valuable editions of Harry Potter stand to earn money worthy of Gringotts-level protection. Hell, if it's a really rare edition, they just might make enough to buy Gringotts and everything else in Diagon Alley.
To find out if your Harry Potter books are worth anything, check out AbeBook's handy online guide here.