First-edition Harry Potter book found in bargain bin sells for $69,000

One man's trash was a woman's treasure Monday after she sold her Harry Potter book for tens of of thousands dollars more than what it cost her.
A first-edition "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" is shown.
Posted at 7:49 PM, Dec 11, 2023

One lucky muggle's wallet just got a magical boost straight out of the Wizarding World.

The unidentified 58-year-old Scottish woman's rare first-edition copy of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" sold at auction on Dec. 11, fetching $69,000 for the novel she found in a bookshop's bargain bin 26 years ago.

The hardback issue was one of only 200 in the first print's run that went to bookshops, according to Hansons Auctioneers book expert Jim Spencer. Of the 500 printed, the other 300 went to schools and libraries.

Hansons considers these first-print runs of the bestselling book the "holy grail" for collectors, as they're getting harder to find and nearly impossible to find in as good of condition as this one.

"It's a great result for a great find," Spencer said of the auction's payout, completed by a private online buyer. "This was a genuine, honest first issue and a fantastically well-preserved example. It was fresh to market and it deserved to go full steam like the Hogwart's Express."

The seller had been on a family caravan trip through the Scottish highlands when she discovered the J.K. Rowling novel in a wicker "bargain bucket" on an isolated bookshop's floor. Having recently read one of Rowling's first interviews, published in The Scotsman newspaper, the woman said she recognized the "distinctive" book cover in the bin and decided to purchase it for around $12.

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"I bought the Harry Potter book before anyone really knew much about it or the author," the buyer-turned-seller said. "Because it had no dust jacket, I got a couple of pounds knocked off the price. Our two children enjoyed the wizard tale as a bedtime story all through that holiday in 1997."

The woman believed the copy was worthless due to not having a dust jacket, but she later learned it was never released with one in the first place. Still, she kept it under her stairs for years, much like where Harry Potter was forced to stay in his distant family's home. 

She says she forgot about the novel for years but then heard of the rarity of first editions, prompting her to contact Spencer to hopefully authenticate and price her find. 

"My children are grown up now, and I thought it was time for someone else to have the pleasure of owning a rare piece of literary history," she said.

Spencer has now played a part in finding 19 of the original 500, all thanks to a little bit of magic.

"It's astonishing it ended up on a remote Scottish peninsula, and it was all down to an article in The Scotsman — and perhaps a dusting of magic — that encouraged the inquisitive and very lucky buyer to pluck it from the bargain bin," Spencer said.