It is absolutely rare for a book whose life is as short as Harry Potter’s to become one of the most expensive and desired items of book collecting. But it is also rare for a young adult novel to acquire the cultural relevance that the Harry Potter series did. Published in the UK in 1997 by Bloomsbury, the universe of sorcerers and muggles created by J. K. Rowling not only changed the genre forever, but also the book trade.
When talking about Harry Potter, numbers are dizzying. The seven books of the original saga have been translated into 70 different languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. Just the first volume, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, sold over 120 million copies.
The British editions are considered the true first editions. The first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can be usually sold for a value of up to $20,000, and sometimes even more, depending on the uniqueness of the copy. This phenomenon has made the book the most expensive of the whole saga and it is one of the most expensive books for sale on the market.
As happens with many other goods, the reason for those numbers is mostly supply and demand. The rarer, scarcer, and more wanted a title is, the higher its value climbs in the book trade. The British first edition, first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone only had 500 copies, a ridiculous number if we compare it to the first American edition, which had 30,000 copies printed.
Sometimes a copy is so rare that its price beats any other in the market. In Biblio, you can find exceptional copies like this one listed by Raptis Rare Books, valued at more than $200,000 dollars. It is a first edition, first printing, and it has a full number line as well as all the typos that collectors love. It lists “Joanne Rowling” for “J.K. Rowling”, and “Thomas Taylor1997” (lacking the space) on the copyright page, and “1 wand” listed twice (as the first item and last item) on the “Other Equipment” list on page 53. These little bugs make a copy especially desirable.
Furthermore, only 300 of the 500 copies of the British first edition were sold at bookstores. The remaining copies were distributed among journalists to be reviewed. It has been said many of them ended up thrown into the bins by those who thought it was just another children’s book. So did Nigel Reynolds, the first reporter to ever interview J. K. Rowling. He was sure the book would flop. Unfortunately, magic is not allowed in the muggles’ world!
The next few titles of the Harry Potter series are also very appreciated, especially the first true editions of the three first books. However, the positive side of Harry Potter becoming so valued and culturally relevant is that there are also many affordable collectible editions that will delight any Pottermaniac. Options are endless!
Differences between the British and the American editions
Several variations exist between the British and the American editions of Harry Potter books. Most notable was the change of the title – while Bloomsbury released the first book with the title of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; American Publishing House, Scholastic, used the term “sorcerer” instead of the “philosopher” to underline the magical nature of the story.
Differences go beyond the titles and also affect vocabulary. Instead of “football” or “jumper”, American editions use “soccer” and “sweater”. In America, the position of Minister for Magic is named Minister of Magic, and the same happens with the name of Hogwarts Divination teacher: Sybill (Bloomsbury) vs. Sybil (Scholastic).
Harry Potter signed copies
If you have ever considered buying a signed copy of Harry Potter, the first piece of advice is to be cautious (and start saving – you need a lot of money to get one). There are not that many signed copies available on the market. As Harry Potter gained popularity, the public appearances of its author decreased, and book-signing logistics became complicated.
Thus, it is not unusual to come across a fake signature of J. K. Rowling. If you have any doubts, you can ask for a certificate of authenticity. There are also several specialized booksellers you can consult before spending a large sum of money.
How to collect Harry Potter first editions
In Biblio, we believe that any type of book collecting matters, regardless of your budget and many other aspects the practice may traditionally involve – antique books, fine bindings, and so on. There are many options to collect beautiful first editions of Harry Potter, but the most valuable copies on the market are the first British and American editions, especially the British ones.
Having said this, a book set of Harry Potter’s first editions are among the most desirable items for an avid collector. You can check out all the sets available on Biblio by clicking here. You will find the entire US set of seven books of Harry Potter series’ first edition, first printing! There are also several Bloomsbury deluxe editions signed by J. K. Rowling (see here, and here), and many other options.
The first Harry Potter book was published on June 26th, 1997. It wasn’t until almost a year later the American edition appeared on June 2nd, 1998. A similar delay happened with the second book. Still, as the saga was gaining readers, the time between the publishing of the British and the American edition was cut down, mainly to prevent American readers from buying the Bloomsbury copies. After Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, books in the English language arrived at bookstores at the same time on both sides of the Atlantic.
First editions of first books didn’t have large printings in the UK, and they were constantly reprinted as the number of fans of the magician was increasing.
The value of a Harry Potter copy depends on the state of the copy, the edition and the printing, the country where it was printed, if it is signed (sometimes they are signed by the illustrators), if the copy is hardcover or softcover, and if it is scarce or it has any particularity that makes it especial.
The most expensive Harry Potter books in order
- First book, first British edition: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury, 1997)
- First book, first American edition: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Scholastic, 1998). 30,000 copies were made and their value today is up to several thousand dollars.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bloomsbury, 1998; Scholastic, 1999). Copies of this title can also be sold for several thousand dollars, especially the British first edition (250,000 copies printed).
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Bloomsbury, Scholastic, 1999). Some copies of this book present the full name of J. K. Rowling (Joanne Rowling) on the copyright page.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Bloomsbury, Scholastic, 2000). The story of Harry Potter was known worldwide when this book was first published, so a million copies of the first edition were printed. Its value in the market will likely increase in the future.
Harry Potter special editions: the best gift for a Potterhead
If you already have the full set of Harry Potter books (no matter the binding or edition) on your bookshelves, there are many additional items you can fulfill the collection with.
20th Anniversary edition
When Harry Potter’s first book turned 20 years, Bloomsbury published different versions of the books, each one dedicated to one of the Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Besides the original text, there is extra material included: the history of the Houses, their ghosts, teachers, and notable students that belong to each of the Houses.
20th Anniversary edition illustrated by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic, this beautiful set includes a map of Hogwarts at the beginning of each book. All the covers are put together to form a superb illustration of many of the main characters and scenarios crisscrossed by a snake.
Harry Potter set design by Kazu Kibuishi
This is also an eye-catching item for any fan. Also from Scholastic, when put together, all the spines form an image of Hogwarts castle.
Harry Potter deluxe bindings
Some titles have also special editions in leather binding like this one (Scholastic, 2000) gilt-decorated bonded in green leather. Other options are this set of books cased in a trunk, perfectly suitable to take the train to Hogwarts.
Harry Potter in other languages
Why don’t you collect different Harry Potter books from all over the world? It is worthwhile and lovely to see the different covers, illustrations, and interpretations of the magic world. To search for books in other languages you just have to visit Biblio, go to the search box, and introduce the title, the author, and the language you want in the keywords space.
Harry Potter expanded universe
Harry Potter and his crew ended their education at Hogwarts, but the wizarding world didn’t finish there. Besides Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you can enrich your collection with titles such as Quidditch Through the Ages, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists, Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide.