Harry Potter auction featuring rare first editions could make more than £200,000

A dedicated Harry Potter auction featuring five rare first edition books and a multitude of unusual discoveries could net more than £200,000 in Staffordshire.

Jim Spencer with Potter books and creatures hired for the first film. Photo: Mark Laban Hansons
Jim Spencer with Potter books and creatures hired for the first film. Photo: Mark Laban Hansons

The May 5 sale has been sparked by the success of Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons Auctioneers, who has found 13 first issues in 21 months.

Jim, associate director and head of books and works on paper at Hansons, said: “My head is spinning with rare Harry Potter books and memorabilia. For a couple of years now I've been responding to hundreds of enquiries every single week from all over the globe.

“Most of these enquiries fall short, so I’m letting people down gently throughout the day, every day. But it’s like panning for gold - I have to spot the glimmering specks among the grainy words or images coming through to my screen. Those nuggets of gold are all the more exciting when I find them!

“Parcels are arriving every day from all over the country, sometimes abroad. We collected books from five different vendors in Scotland. It’s all fresh to market, not trade. Sometimes, it arrives from one country and sells to another country. In the middle is me, inspecting and cataloguing books into the wee small hours. There’s a lot of work involved, but it's an honour.”

Five hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone from 1997. Photo: Hansons

Jim found a first issue hardback of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in July 2019, which sold for £28,500.

He added: “The first issue hardback of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published by Bloomsbury in 1997, marks the beginning of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Of the 500 copies printed, 300 were sent to schools and libraries and 200 to shops. The five in this sale have guide prices ranging from £10,000 and £50,000 each, dependant on condition.

“One was purchased in 1998 for just 50p from a book shop sale bin during a holiday in Scotland. The parents inscribed it, 'To Katie, on our holiday in Clachtoll 1998. Love from Mum & Dad’.

Autographed Harry Potter books in the sale. Photo: Hansons

The vendor said: “The Philosopher’s Stone was purchased when our three children were quite young. We used to go on holiday to a campsite in Clachtoll in the North West Highlands of Scotland and bedtime reading was meant to be exciting after what may have been a typical summer's dreich day. This book was bought at Achins, the most remote bookshop in mainland Scotland, on a wet and windy day from the sale bin for 50p, which perhaps reflected the slow initial uptake.

“The girls are now aged 27, 29 and 30 and are, thankfully, still regular visitors to the west coast and Highlands. Hopefully one day they will introduce their children to Harry Potter on those stormy west-coast days.”

Hansons is also five first issue paperbacks of Philosopher’s Stone, with guide prices ranging from £1,000 to £5,000 each.

Scarce 1997 proof sheet of the proposed illustrated wrappers which would have accompanied pre-publication copies of the book. Photo: Hansons

Another rare find, pre-dating the first issue hardback, is a proof cover design for Bloomsbury, dated June 1997. This is a scarce proof sheet of the proposed illustrated wrappers, which would have accompanied one of 200 uncorrected, pre-publication copies of the book. A rare survivor with considerable variations from the final published version, it’s guided at £700-£1,000.

Four taxidermy specimens of snakes and lizards hired by Warner Bros for the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in 2001 are also being sold with a guide price of £10,000. The lot includes rental agreements and instructions from the Harry Potter Art Department at Leavesden Studios to Snowdonia Taxidermy Studios, which has consigned the items to auction.

Taxidermy specimens of snakes and lizards hired by Warner Bros for the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in 2001. Photo: Hansons

Fans can also bid on an archive of Harry Potter goodies from Matthew LaCroix, author of a fan letter famously used on the dust-jacket of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Matthew was only 12 when he wrote to JK Rowling: ‘Dear Joanne Rowling, Looking forward to lunchtimes, so I could read Harry’s world of magic, is great, so ...thank you for adding that touch of excitement in my day.... Please, Please, please, Please, PLEASE!!!!! Bring another one, keeping writing, my life depends on it. Yours Sincerely, Matthew LaCroix, Your No. 1 fan!’

JK Rowling with a young fan. The photo relates to a signed book in the sale to 'Ginny Weasley'. Photo: Hansons

His parents were unaware he’d sent the letter but parcels began arriving from Bloomsbury and he was soon making news. The archive, guided at £3,000, comprises gifts and correspondence sent to Matthew from Bloomsbury, a first edition Goblet of Fire signed by the author, promotional posters featuring his letter; confirmation his fan mail will take 'pride of place' on the jacket; photographs and material relating to a book signing Matthew did for Waterstones, and more.

More Potter magic emerges courtesy of a story attached to a first issue hardback of Chamber of Secrets. It bears an intriguing inscription, 'To Jill, who very spookily gave me a beautiful card with something from Book Four on it! With many thanks, JK Rowling'.

A message from JK Rowling to a young fan she met in Dunblane in 1999. Photo: Hansons

The seller met J K Rowling when she was a young Potter fan. Her mother was a teacher at Dunblane Primary School and JK Rowling paid them a visit in February, 1999.

The Harry Potter Auction includes other signed books with inscriptions. For instance, 'To Adele, or should I say Ginny Weasley? J K Rowling', which was signed at Edinburgh Book Festival in 1998.

There are also two first editions of Order of the Phoenix signed by the cast of children from the film including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. The vendor arranged for two books to be signed, one for each of her two children. Daniel Radcliffe has inscribed each one, 'Magic Rules OK!' and 'Magic Rocks!' Estimate £1,500-£2,500 each.

Autographed Harry Potter book in the sale. Photo: Hansons

Police drama comes to the fore in one lot, a first edition of Half-Blood Prince. It was an original exhibit from a theft and blackmail case involving armed police, all sparked by Potter fever prior to the release of the novel.

Six weeks before the eagerly-anticipated publication of the penultimate novel in the Harry Potter series, two copies of the book were stolen from a secure distribution centre in Northamptonshire.

An attempt was made to obtain money from two national newspapers by revealing the novel’s secrets. A journalist involved tried to flee with the books but the perpetrator fired an imitation Walther PPK pistol in their direction and was arrested by armed police. An attempt was also made to blackmail publishers Bloomsbury by revealing the book’s contents.

A signed copy of Chamber of Secrets and envelope relating to a meeting with JK Rowling in Dunblane, Scotland in 1999. Photo Hansons

The vendor, an anonymous retired police officer, has provided a statement confirming his involvement in the case and the fact that the book was given to him as a gift for his hard work. The estimate is £500 to £800.

Other lots include two original ink cartoons by Nick Newman for The Sunday Times, satirising the huge excitement around the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, guide price £200-£300, plus various first editions and signed books.

The online-only Hogwarts Harry Potter Auction will take place on May 5 at 2pm at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire. View the catalogue at hansonslive.co.uk

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