A woman looking to fund renovations on her bathroom raised the money in a unique way this week, as her copy of a Harry Potter book with typos sold for $34,500. The book, identified as the "holy grail of Harry Potter books" by rare books expert Jim Spencer, was a first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone — known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S. — and was one of only 500 in the world. Previous copies of the same Philosopher's Stone edition have sold for between $20,000 and $90,000.
So what made this copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone so special? The answer lies in the copy's typos. On the back cover, the word Philosopher's is misspelled as Philospher's, and the item "1 wand" is named twice in Harry's list of Hogwarts school supplies. Additionally, the copyright page identifies the author, not as J.K. Rowling, but as "Joanne Rowling" — her legal name, and one she does not publish under.
Often, when a rare Harry Potter book makes its way into the public eye, it has something more than typos to distinguish it, such as an autograph from Rowling. What makes this copy of Philosopher's Stone so interesting, however, is just how mundane its story is. Twenty years ago, the book was bought as cheap vacation reading material from a library rummage sale for £1 — about $1.20 U.S. After being tossed into storage and forgotten, the misprinted copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone reemerged when its owner asked Spencer, who works for Hansons Auctioneers, to assess the value of three boxes of books.
First published in the UK in 1997, the Harry Potter books continue to hold the attentions and affections of millions of fans worldwide, a factor that contributes greatly to the popularity of signed and misprinted copies at auction. On New Year's Eve 2018, a signed, first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was among several valuable books stolen in a heist. More than a decade after the last book in the main Harry Potter series was published, Rowling continues to be one of the world's highest-earning authors.
Hansons Auctioneers anticipated that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone would sell for between £20,000 and £30,000. Won by a private collector — who, like its previous owner, wishes to remain anonymous — the book fetched £28,500 at auction on Tuesday.