Proof copy of first Harry Potter novel, bought for pennies, sells for more than $13K

Harry Potter book

A proof of author J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, bought for pennies 26 years ago, sold for more than $13,000 at an auction in England on Sunday.

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The uncorrected proof of the 1997 book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” sold for $13,951.02 during Hansons Auctioneers’ Bishton Hall Library Auction in Staffordshire, according to the auction house’s website.

The final gavel price for the book about the young wizard and his adventures was £11,000, ($13,951.02 in U.S. currency). With the buyer’s premium added, the winning bidder paid £14,432 ($18,303.74 U.S.).

“This book so deserved to do well. This is where the Harry Potter phenomenon began,” Jim Spencer, head of books at the auction house and a Harry Potter books expert, told the BBC. “This is the very first appearance in print of the first Potter novel.”

While Rowling’s name was spelled properly on the cover of the proof edition, the copy’s inside title page mistakenly referred to the author as “J. A Rowling,” according to a news release from the auction house.

The seller, who remained anonymous, said the Harry Potter book was a “throw-in” when she bought two other books at a south London bookstore in 1997 for 40 pence ($0.50 U.S.), according to The Associated Press.

“I didn’t have much money but I always liked to treat myself to a browse round second-hand bookshops on Saturday mornings.

“In 1997, when I was 26, I had just got back to the UK and was living in Crystal Palace in London. I didn’t have much money but I always liked to treat myself to a browse round second-hand bookshops on Saturday mornings,” the woman told Hansons in a statement. “I dropped into one of my usual haunts, one of the second-hand bookshops just off the main road in Crystal Palace, looking for some Agatha Christies. Piles of books were all jumbled up in baskets on the floor with a maximum price of 40p.

“The Harry Potter book was among the piles -- maybe even by accident -- as all the rest were Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh etc., as far as I remember. I bought it as a throw-in with a couple of other titles. ... I don’t think I even looked at it properly to tell the truth.”

The woman said that she was bored one night and was online when she noticed a story about “incredible prices” for Harry Potter books. She checked with Spencer, who told her that the book was a precious find.

“Finding it when I did was just a massive piece of well-timed luck for which I will always be grateful and more than a tad surprised,” the woman told Hansons.

The woman retrieved the book, which was “stuck behind a shelf in my bedroom unit,” after her children became fans of the Harry Potter films.

“Even the kids haven’t read it -- there are four of them aged from 12 to 25, the seller told Hansons. “They always unfortunately -- or fortunately in this case -- preferred the films.