Rare Harry Potter book bought for 50p in Manchester charity shop sells for an eyewatering sum

An eagle eyed Manchester businessman took it to an auctioneer and made a huge profit.
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A rare Harry Potter book found in a Manchester charity shop has sold for a five-figure sum at auction.

The Philosopher’s Stone, which cost 50p from a charity shop and was covered in children's doodles, sold for £15,500 under the hammer.

It had been expected to fetch between £2,000 to £3,000 but smashed its estimate to sell for more than five times the amount.

The seller, a Manchester businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I didn’t realise it was a first edition when I bought it.

“I just spotted the back cover with the image of the wizard and thought it looked interesting.

Another first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - front and back cover. Credit: Hansons / SWNSAnother first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - front and back cover. Credit: Hansons / SWNS
Another first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - front and back cover. Credit: Hansons / SWNS

“It was only 50p. I found it in one of those traditional charity shops packed with boxes.

“Around Christmas time, I decided to contact Hansons Auctioneers to check whether it was a first edition.

“They confirmed that it was - a nice surprise to say the least.”

Book expert Jim Spencer said previously: “In essence, we have two first issue hardbacks - one carefully preserved and unread, the other thoroughly enjoyed and read to death.

"When it comes to condition, we're looking at two very different books. One is like new, as good as it gets.

“The other has been read until it broke, enjoyed countless times, even joyfully illustrated by its young fan.

“I suppose it’s a lesson in what not to do with a Harry Potter first edition – don’t scribble all over it then give it away.

“But the people who originally owned it would have had no idea of its potential value today. It was bought for a child to enjoy and love."

The first editions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets  Credit: Hansons / SWNSThe first editions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets  Credit: Hansons / SWNS
The first editions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets Credit: Hansons / SWNS

Another Harry Potter sold for £70,000

At the same sale, a first edition which was kept in pristine condition for 25 years after its owner nearly returned it to a bookshop has fetched almost £70,000 at auction.

The hardback copy of the the Philosopher’s Stone was bought in 1997 and has been stored in darkness, left unread, unopened and in a protective sleeve ever since.

But its owner almost let the valuable book slip through his fingers after he nearly returned it to ask for his £12.99 back - because it didn’t have a dust jacket.

The “as-good-as-new” copy, one of only 500 ever printed, has now sold for £69,000 at Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall Derbys.

It had been expected to fetch between £40,000 to £60,000 when it went under the hammer earlier this month..

The seller, a retired paper merchant director, aged 68, from West Sussex, said he only kept the book “on the toss of the coin” after believing it had a fatal flaw.

He said “It didn’t have a dust jacket and I thought it should.

“I was really disappointed when I went to pick it up. I’m a collector and, being a first edition, I expected it to have one.

“I decided to keep the book on the toss of a coin. It was a moment of destiny.

“I remember standing in the doorway debating whether to keep it.

“I took it home and tucked it away in darkness on a high book shelf to keep it from prying eyes but, more importantly, because the paper in the book is poor quality.

“I was told to keep it away from sunlight to prevent it going brown.

“I’ve really looked after it. It’s in the best condition it possibly can be – almost perfect I would say. It’s never been read.

“A year after I bought it, with Harry Potter excitement growing at my daughter’s school, she asked if she could read it. I said no, absolutely not.

“Instead, I bought her another copy and a later issue of The Chamber of Secrets – both in the Harry Potter Gift Set slipcase.

“My daughter’s copy of Philosopher’s Stone was a fourth issue – with a dust jacket.

“So, I put that on my first edition to protect it and tucked it away together with my Chamber of Secrets first edition, also protected by the slipcase.

“They have always been kept separate from my main books collection and hidden in the house.

“I started collecting books in my 40s. I worked for a paper company and mixed with people in the books fraternity.

“I used to go out at lunchtime looking for rare finds and got hooked. I have quite a big books collection.

“In recent years, I noticed Philosopher’s Stone first editions were selling well at auction but, as mine didn’t have a dust jacket, I didn’t think it could achieve those prices.

“Eventually I realised a dust jacket was not specified. Now I’ve reached the time of life when it would be useful to pay off the mortgage so I’ve decided to sell.

“It’s not easy to part with. Collectors have difficulty selling their prized possessions.”

‘Too good to be true’

Hansons’ books expert Jim Spencer said: “The owner travelled a long way to see me.

“We sat down and made ourselves comfortable, but I was nervous about removing the book’s jacket.

“I receive countless Potter enquiries every single day, but this one had grabbed me and I hoped it would be right.

“My only fear was that it was too good to be true. I inspected the book closely, again and again, comparing it with two other first issues of the same work, studying the covers and text with a magnifying glass.

“Everything added up perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. It was like stepping back in time to 1997.”

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said previously: “It could well be the most pristine hardback first issue of Philosopher’s Stone ever offered at auction.”