First edition Harry Potter book sold for record $471,000

First edition Harry Potter book sold for record $471,000
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone First Edition. Credit: Heritage Auctions' Instagram

A first edition hardcover copy of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' – the first of the series of books about the young wizard written by J. K. Rowling – was sold during an action for a record-high price.

The book, first published in 1997, fetched $471,000 (€417,000) at an auction on Thursday – the highest price ever paid for any form of the first in the Potter series, Texas-based auction house Heritage Auctions said in a press release.

"Not only is it the most expensive Harry Potter book ever sold; it is also the most expensive commercially published 20th-century work of fiction ever sold," Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena said.

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After Rowling's debut was rejected by a dozen publishers, Bloomsbury printed just 500 hardback copies of Philosopher's Stone, with most intended for public libraries.

The few copies that have surfaced at auction have become among the most coveted titles in modern literature, with two others selling in 2021 for more than $138,000 (approx. €122,000).

Live bidding for the first edition of the first novel in the series opened at $75,000 (approx. €66,400). There followed a protracted round of heated bidding that drove the price higher and higher. "When the final sale price was announced, the auction room erupted with applause."

From novel to film

"'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' was brought to life on the big screen two decades ago and this result shows the power of that combination of literature and cinema. These books are being rewarded for the results of their films," Maddalena said.

The book was sold as part of the Heritage Auctions' Firsts Into Film session, held Thursday morning to kick off the auction house's two-day Rare Books event that included 69 first editions adapted for the big and small screens.

This Harry Potter novel wasn't the only book on sale to shatter records. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy — The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, published between 1954 and 1955 — also broke its previous auction record when it sold Thursday for $103,125 (just over €91,000).

Other famous novels that were later adapted into films included in the auction were first editions of all seven titles in CS Lewis' 'Chronicles of Narnia', Jane Austen's three-volume Sense and Sensibility, as well as Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

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