Harry Potter and the delighted civil servant: ex-official sells rare copy for £50,000

Written by Beckie Smith on 11 October 2019 in News

Pristine copy of children's book was kept in a locked briefcase for safekeeping

Jim Spencer of Hansons Auctioneers in Staffordshire with the £50,000 book Credit: Hansons Auctioneers

A retired civil servant has welcomed a windfall after selling a rare first-edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for more than £50,000.

The seller, who has chosen to remain anonymous but was described as a former civil servant, had kept the book in a locked briefcase for over two decades

The hardback is one of only 500 copies printed in 1997, before author JK Rowling became a household name.


A UK buyer stumped up £57,040 for the wizarding tale after an international bidding war, auctioneer Hansons said. Previously, experts had estimated the book could fetch between £25,000 and £30,000.

The seller, who hails from Lancashire, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the price.

“The book was given to us as a gift by an aunt when our children were small. She bought it at an independent book shop when it was first published. The plan was to keep it as a family heirloom. My wife put it in a briefcase to stop the pages turning yellow,” he said.

Jim Spencer, books expert at the Staffordshire auction house, said a 1997 first-edition Harry Potter hardback was the “holy grail for collectors” because of its rarity.

“The owners took such great care of their precious cargo they brought it to me in a briefcase, which they unlocked with a secret code. It felt like we were dealing in smuggled diamonds,” he said.

Spencer said the book was one of 12 sold yesterday, after Hansons’ sale of another first edition for £28,500 in July triggered an influx of calls from would-be sellers.

“That book was bought for £1 at a table top sale and it sparked Potter mania. I started receiving 50 emails a day from people who thought they might own a first edition. Out of thousands of contacts, 12 first editions emerged including the star find,” Spencer said.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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