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RARE BOOK EXPERTS PONDER WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR HARD-TO-FIND HARRY POTTER EDITIONS
Prices for hardback Philosopher's Stone can start at £16,000 - do you have one?
(July 22, 2005) While the latest Harry Potter installment enjoys record sales, experts from the rare book trade are pondering how the market will develop for the most collectible books from JK Rowling's series.
The massive print run for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will prevent it from earning true collectible status, but the high-end rare book market is primarily focused on 200 hard-to-find first edition hardback copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone – the 1997 debut book by the then-unknown author which had a hardback print run of just 500 in the UK.
Of those 500 copies, 300 were distributed to libraries and few of those are considered collectible which has helped increase prices for the remaining 200. Prices for first editions can range from £16,000 to £25,000 – depending on condition and whether they are signed.
Abebooks.co.uk – the world's largest online marketplace for books – currently offers five individual copies of ‘Philosopher' with the most expensive at £20,000. Others are offered in sets for higher prices. There are currently 46 Harry Potter books, or sets of books, being offered for £2,500 or more at Abebooks.co.uk.
"Experts are undecided whether prices for these rare copies of the Philosophy's Stone will increase," said Richard Davies, PR manager at Abebooks. "However, if - by some slim chance - somebody has a hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone standing unnoticed on their bookshelf then they possess one of the most sought-after contemporary items in the rare book world."
Interest in the 1998 US version of Rowling's debut book, which was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, pales in comparison to demand for the scarce UK version. But will the prices for these sought-after UK versions increase further?
Peter Harrington, a leading rare bookseller in London and an Abebooks seller since 1999, is a member of the UK's Antiquarian Booksellers Association and their membership rules prevent him from offering financial investment advice to buyers.
"The truth is I don't know what's going to happen to the value of these books," he said "I'm not sure anyone does. Is it just a fashion or is it here to stay? It's very hard to say – for instance, 25 years ago, everyone said copies of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale were over-priced at £2000 and yet today they sell for £25,000.
"We first felt ripples about JK Rowling in 1999. At the start, speculators bought up the hardback Philosopher's Stone in the hope they'd increase in value, which they did. Then collectors started to buy copies and since then they have been very hard to find.
"Book collectors often begin collecting in their 40s and 50s, and they are drawn to books from their childhood. Today, people who collect first editions of The Hobbit are ones who read it in the 1950s. Perhaps the fascinating thing about Harry Potter is that these books have inspired many first-time rare book collectors. I've sold £20,000 copies of the Philosopher's Stone to people buying their first rare book – you don't see that with any other author."
Investors unwilling to gamble on a high price for a copy of The Philosopher's Stone could look at Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban – Rowling's third book.
The initial hardback print run was stopped mid-process after it was discovered that ‘Joanne Rowling' rather than ‘JK Rowling' had been printed on the copyright page. Joanne versions are available on Abebooks.co.uk for prices ranging from £2,000 to £6,000 for a signed book.
Despite its huge print run, several interesting versions of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince are now available. Abebooks.co.uk is currently offering two copies signed by the book's illustrator, Mary GrandPré, for £176 and £352 respectively. A copy of the Half-Blood Prince, featuring a signed bookplate, was sold for £550 within 24 hours of going on sale. It is not known how many copies of the Half-Blood Prince have been signed by the author.
Abebooks is the world’s largest online marketplace for books, with over 70 million new, second-hand, rare, and out-of-print titles listed for sale by more than 13,000 independent booksellers from around the world. Abebooks has millions of registered customers who collectively purchase more than 20,000 books a day from its 5 global websites (Abebooks.com, Abebooks.co.uk, Abebooks.de, Abebooks.fr and Iberlibro.com). A true internet success story, Abebooks.com has been selling books online since 1996, and is a private company based in Victoria, BC Canada, with offices in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Richard Davies, PR & Publicity Mgr., Abebooks.com