Monday 11 December 2017

Treasures: Potter prices spellbinding

  • 1 wand
  • 1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
  • 1 set glass or crystal phials
  • 1 telescope
  • 1 set brass scales
  • 1 wand
A first edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone sold at Bonhams for £43,750
A first edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone sold at Bonhams for £43,750
Lego Hogwarts Castle boxes are fetching €500 on eBay
Five-branch table lamps

How many wands were on Hogwarts' list of school supplies? Only one is the correct answer. Now, turn to page 53 in your copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone. If the list on that page includes the item "1 wand" twice, you may be in for a bit of magic. It's a misprint that may (or may not) identify the book as a valuable first edition. When JK Rowling's Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone was published by Bloomsbury in 1997, the book became an instant bestseller.

It was the first in a series of seven novels and the basis for a feature film of the same name, released in 2001.

Nobody expected the book's overwhelming success. It was Rowling's first novel and her advance from Bloomsbury was just £2,500. They did a standard print run of 500 hardback copies. Of these, 300 were sent to libraries (it's unlikely that many of these survived - children's libraries are tough on books). The estimated 200 hardback copies that remain in circulation are very valuable indeed.

In November 2016, a copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, first edition, first issue, Bloomsbury (1997), sold at Bonhams in London for £43,750 (€51,721).

Lego Hogwarts Castle boxes are fetching €500 on eBay
Lego Hogwarts Castle boxes are fetching €500 on eBay

Serious book collectors are only interested in the very first batch of books off the press. "To have any real collectable value, it has to be a copy of the first edition, first impression (also known as the first printing)," writes Pom Harrington of Peter Harrington Books. Reprints are far less valuable.

Many people would like to imagine that they have a first edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone. These are actually very rare. Harrington has been so plagued by misguided Potter fans that he's published a checklist to help people identify what is and what isn't a valuable first edition. Here are his main points:

1. The publisher must be listed as Bloomsbury at the bottom of the title page;

2. The latest date listed in the copyright information must be 1997;

3. The print line on the copyright page must read "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" exactly. This page also credits "Joanne Rowling" (rather than JK);

4. On page 53, in the list of school supplies that Harry receives from Hogwarts, the item "1 wand" must appear twice, once at the beginning and once at the end.

The crux of the matter is that, to identify as "first edition, first issue", the book has to tick all four boxes. Everyone loves to spot the mistake on the school supplies list. This was corrected in the second printing of the book, but actually reappears in some later printings.

According to Bonhams' Head of Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, "the proof reading error about the wand in the first edition has become a treasured piece of Harry Potter arcana". But, without the other three items on the checklist, it doesn't mean you have a first edition.

In the same way, the "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" print line also features in "deluxe editions". These are mock first editions, published as collectibles and are not in the same league as the first-issue printings. Ryan Tubridy presented a deluxe edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone to a young Harry Potter fan on last year's Late Late Toy Show. The book was donated by Ulysses Rare Books and is worth around €250.

A signature by JK Rowling can add hugely to the value of any of the Harry Potter books, even if they're not first editions. "She doesn't sign that many of them," says David Cunningham of Ulysses Rare Books. "Her signature is currency. It can add up to €1,000 to the price of a book, depending on the edition." A copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, Bloomsbury (2000) 33rd issue, signed by the author, costs €1,250 from Ulysses Rare Books. Although the author's signature is the most valuable, copies signed by the cast members of the Harry Potter films are also collectible. A copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, signed by nine members of the cast, along with a copy of Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire, signed by Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, went under the hammer at Fonsie Mealy's auction on May 30. The two books went on sale as a single lot, selling for €200.

"Nobody knows who collected the signatures," says George Fonsie Mealy, auctioneer. "My guess is that it was some enterprising person who worked on the set."

Because the books weren't first editions, they wouldn't have attracted serious book collectors, but many people collect Harry Potter memorabilia. The record holder, according to the Guinness Book Of Records, is Menahem Asher Silva Vargas of Mexico, who has the world's largest collection of Harry Potter memorabilia, with 3,092 items, including trading cards, board games, action figures and replica wands.

Harry Potter Lego is hugely collectible, especially Hogwarts Castle. The first version, 4709 Hogwarts Castle, was released in 2001. It's hugely collectible, especially in an unopened box, as are the three following incarnations (4757, 5378 and 4842). Boxed sets of 4842 are currently selling on eBay for around €500 but, given the rapid appreciation of Lego as an investment, you might be as wise to hang on to what you've got. It might turn out to be magic.

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In the salerooms


Five-branch table lamps

There's an aura of excitement around the old Chinese ceramics in Adam's At Home sale, which takes place on Sunday, June 18 at 12pm. The past few months have seen Chinese art do well at auction, often with a number of bidders from China competing for the same article. An attractive but unassuming 18th century Chinese blue and white brush pot, painted with dignitaries and deer standing by a waterfall, carries an estimate of €4,000 to €6,000.

A Chinese blue and white bottle vase (1661-1722), 44cm high, decorated with auspicious symbols and fantastic animals, is estimated to sell between €3,000 and €5,000.

Paintings of interest in the sale include a flirty pastel portrait of a young lady in white attributed to John Russell (1745-1806) (est €3,000 to €5,000).

Interesting decorative furnishings in the sale include a mad-looking pair of early 20th century Continental five-branch table lamps (above) in the form of fruiting vines (est €1,200 to €1,800) - the blown frosted glass shades are in the form of green grapes. There is also much in the way of conventional antique furniture. See


A page from the original manuscript of 'Finnegans Wake' sold at Fonsie Mealy's for €27,000 on June 30. The page, which was signed and dated by James Joyce, showed 16 lines in his own hand from the opening of the Anna Livia Plurabelle section beginning: "Well, you know or don't you kennet…" The original estimate was €7,000 to €10,000.

The archive of the writer Flann O'Brien (est €6,000 to €8,000) sold for €10,000. The sale included a number of GAA medals from many counties, but Laois was the star of the show. A Laois All-Ireland Hurling medal from 1915 sold for €11,000. Having been beaten by Clare the previous year, the Laois team regrouped and won against Cork, 6-2 to 4-1, claiming their first and only title. A Boy Of Just Eighteen Summers, a death mask of the patriot Kevin Barry (est €600 to 800) sold for €2,200. It was inscribed on the reverse "Death Mask of Kevin Barry - Hanged in 1920 by the English." See


Vintage Ireland will hold a fair of antique and vintage objects at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, on Sunday, with more than 30 stands. Items on offer range from antique and vintage designer jewellery to fashion accessories, and from antique furniture to coins, banknotes and miscellaneous memorabilia.

The fair runs from 11am to 6pm and admission is €3.50. See

Also on Sunday, there will be an AVA Antique & Collectors Fair at White River House Hotel, Toomebridge, Co Antrim. Expect art, jewellery, silver, clocks, glass, porcelain, lamps, posters and other curiosities. The fair runs from 11am to 6pm and admission is £2.

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