Books and Culture

Harry Potter book purchased for $1 just sold for nearly $35,000—on J.K. Rowling's birthday

British author J.K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series.
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A rare first-edition hard copy of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" sold for £28,500 ($34,865) to a private collector at a U.K. auction in Staffordshire. It's one of just 500 copies in the first print run.

The sale took place July 31, which also happens to be Rowling's — and Harry Potter's — birthday.

"Three phone bidders battled it out," Hansons Auctioneers, the auction house that conducted the sale, tweeted this morning.

"I was called to a client's house near Stafford to value three boxes of books, and there it was — the Holy Grail of Harry Potter books," Jim Spencer, a books expert at Hansons, said in a news release.

The book was originally purchased by an office worker for £1 ($1.22) at a tabletop sale.

"I bought the book along with three or four others to read on holiday about 20 years ago," the vendor, who wished to remain anonymous, told Hansons. "I thought nothing of it at the time. I read the book — in fact, I've read all the Harry Potter series — and then put it away in a cupboard for years."

"This book is J.K. Rowling's first book and first in the Harry Potter series," Spencer said in a BBC interview. "She couldn't get a publishing deal. When she finally did, only 500 were printed — and 300 of them went to the library. Everyone has heard of this book. It has won the hearts and imaginations of the young and the old."

Correction: This story was updated to reflect the correct sale price in U.S. dollars.

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