Harry Potter is a global phenomenon, spanning books, films, games, and almost every other form of media you can think of. There’s a massive market for merchandise, including rides located in Universal Studios, and an upcoming video game titled Hogwarts Legacy. The commercial juggernaut that is Harry Potter shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.
But where did it all begin? Penned by JK Rowling, the original set of books were released over a decade, from 1997 to 2007. They’re worth significant sums in the present day, especially when looking at rare first edition copies.
Here’s everything you could possibly need to know about collecting first edition Harry Potter books, from pricing to an investment outlook over the next decade or so.
Harry Potter Book Set: The Basics
The Harry Potter series follows the exploits of the eponymous boy wizard as he begins his schooling at the magical castle known as Hogwarts. As such, there are several books, with one for each year he’s in education. They grow impressively in scope and tone, with later editions winning almost every award imaginable in a number of regions around the world. The first was released in the UK in 1997, with the final book coming out roughly a decade later.
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There’s also the small matter of ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’, who left Harry as an orphan when he was a baby. Then there’s the film series, which was released while the books were still coming out (2001-11). They helped to solidify its status as a story that was likely to last, leading on to the second series of films which also serve as a semi-prequel (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).
In the present day, it’s still fondly remembered, and there are legions of fans across the globe. It was eventually translated into 80 different languages, while 500 million Harry Potter books have now been sold worldwide. Some copies feature different cover illustrations, and there are lots of special editions.
In other words, the books are still incredibly popular, with first editions being seen as the best possible versions that money can buy.
Harry Potter Book Set – 1st Edition Collectors Guide
Why are first editions so valuable? For one, it’s a good way to differentiate between the various versions, and it’s most likely to be true to the original intent of the author. Given that we’re looking at a series, earlier editions tend to be worth more, as owners weren’t aware that it was going to be such a massive success at the time.
For example, the original UK version of the Order of the Phoenix came in at 766 words, while the 2014 edition had 800. In comparison, the US edition has 870. That’s a significant difference, which saw multiple rewrites to make it more suitable for a North American audience.
Harry Potter Book Questions
Q: Is there an 8th Harry Potter book?
A: Nope. And there never will be… peroid.
Q: How many Harry Potter books are there?
Q: How much is the Harry Potter set?
A: Depends… email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with pricing questions
Q: Where is Harry Potter set in the books?
A: The magical kingdom of Hogwarts
First editions are great as a long-term investment piece, depending on the book itself. If it’s a popular bestseller from an award-winning author, it’s probably not going to be that expensive, unless it’s an older title. In the case of Harry Potter, this makes the earlier books significantly more expensive, and harder to find in fine condition.[irp posts=”14988″ name=”8 Most Valuable Pokemon Cards of All-Time (Updated)”]
The condition is highly relevant when judging the value of a first edition title. Any hardback book that has been read will show some signs of use on the spine and may be slightly dog-eared. The addition of a signature also tends to have an impact on the asking price for first edition copies, and the same is true for the HP series.
We’ll go through each of the books below, so you know exactly what to expect if you’re looking at picking up a first edition book for yourself.
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
UK release: 26/06/97; US release 9/01/98
The one that started it all, the original Harry Potter book was released in 1997 in the UK. (It’s also referred to as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.)
The main characteristics of a UK 1997 first edition first issue are a print line that reads ‘10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1’.
Supposedly, you’ll find the crediting of “Joanne Rowling”, instead of JK at the front. However, that’s not actually true, and all early printings of the title have the same copyright statement.
You can also take a look at the front cover, as the illustration changes depending on the publisher and the region. *It’s worth noting that advanced proof copies are also available, although they’re not as collectible as a bonafide first edition copy. As always, hardcover versions are strongly preferred.
There were just 500 first edition hardcovers produced, while 300 were sent to schools and children’s libraries across the UK. This means that it’s especially rare if you’re able to find a true original.
Because library books receive so much wear and tear there are likely to be fewer than 200 copies in potentially fine collectible condition, and these rarely appear on the market. The other binding was a regular paperback version of which a few thousand copies were produced for sale.
For the highest values, we’d look to the hardcover edition, which is the best first edition Harry Potter book overall.
First editions for other languages are also fairly popular and can sell for a decent fee depending on the buyer, and the overall condition.
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
The US version released roughly five months later, and it is instantly recognizable as a parallel. For one, the cover is completely different, while the name was changed to make a more ‘magical’ connection with the reader. It was published by Scholastic and was illustrated by Mary GrandPré.
US first editions will have the number line of 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 8 9/9 0/0 01 02,” on the copyright page. It’ll state that it was “Printed in the U.S.A.23″ and that it’s a “First American edition, October 1998”.
It had an initial print run of just 30,000, which is much lower than any of the other US editions. It’s still a great long-term investment piece, especially for US collectors who’d prefer to have the version they grew up with as children.
The Sorcerer’s Stone will sell for anywhere from $4,000 to $6,500 depending on the condition, so it’s not cheap by any means. It’s just not as popular as the elusive UK version.
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
UK release: 2/07/98; US release 6/02/99
The Chamber of Secrets saw the return of Harry Potter, just a year after the first book. It was considered to be a minor success at the time, but nowhere near as popular as it is today. This means that author JK Rowling was out and about on book tours and that there are numerous signed copies available.
As they were released back in ‘98, they command a decent price tag, depending on the condition
The best first edition first printings will go for around $9,000 with a decent selection between the $4,000 and $5,000 price range. Of course, that’s for the UK version, as Rowling was yet to solidify her reputation as an author of worldwide renown.
Scholastic’s US first editions are priced in the three-figure range, but keep an eye out for signed copies. First Australian editions will sell for a modest sum, while Canadian firsts are cheaply priced. Once again, there’s a range of great investment pieces, depending on what your budget is.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
UK release 8/07/99; US release 9/08/99
The Prisoner of Azkaban was when the series began to take a darker tone. It was supposed to match an aging audience, who were ready to deal with more adult topics while being packed full of the traditional charm seen in the early books.
The initial hardcover print run was stopped midway through after it was discovered that ‘Joanne Rowling’ had been printed on the copyright page. Joanne versions are available for roughly $1,500 and can go up to $10,000 for signed pristine copies.[irp posts=”9440″ name=”Michael Jordan Funko Pop – Top 3, Checklist, and Investment Outlook”]
First edition first printings have the number line “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”, as well as a block of misaligned text on page seven. The error is clearly something for collectors to look out for, but it’s hard to say exactly how many copies there actually are.
Regardless, it’s another expensive first edition of the Harry Potter series, so it’s worth taking the time to check out your old copy just in case.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
UK & US release: 8/07/00
I remember being in school at the time of the release of the new Harry Potter book, as the wizard quickly became a household name. The size of the book itself is incredible, but that leads to issues with the spine when looking at the hardback version.
As Rowling had hit her stride by now, there’s a distinct lack of signed copies compared to the earlier books in the HP series. This means that autographed copies have a premium attached.
There are also limited editions with watercolor illustrations by Giles Greenfield (Bloomsbury’s UK version) and Mary GrandPre (Scholastic’s US edition of only 25 copies). If either happens to be signed by the illustrator, it’s another item that should be worth a significant fee.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
UK & US release: 21/06/03
The Order of the Phoenix took a while to release, with a gap of just under three years for fans who were waiting to catch up with the next installment. Released during the height of the series’ popularity, signed copies are what you should be looking out for. Otherwise, first editions are extremely affordable.
To give some idea of the hype, there was a midnight launch, and there are many signed first edition copies as a consequence. People were also starting to cotton on to the idea that books could be seen as collector’s items in the future. Ironically, this means that there are numerous versions in good condition today, so they’re not worth much. In terms of values, copies are likely to go for a low three-figure sum.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
UK & US release: 16/07/05
The penultimate book in the series, the Half Blood Prince was released at the same time as the Goblet of Fire film. It had a wide hardcover release, and it was well-received by critics and fans alike. In the present day, it’s worth little, even for first edition copies of the UK version.
That’s unless it’s been signed by Rowling herself, although that’s fairly unlikely given she’d stopped the book tours by 2005. A signed copy will go for four figures, while the first printings can be picked up on the cheap.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
UK & US release: 21/07/07
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the finale, focusing on a showdown between Harry and Voldemort, which encompasses the rest of the wizarding world. A massive tome, it comes in at 607 words for the original UK edition, 759 words for the US edition and 620 for the 2014 UK rewrite.
A truly massive release, publisher Bloomsbury spent £10m in an attempt to keep the book’s contents secure until the release date. The gambit paid off, as it currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most novels sold within 24 hours of release, with 8.3 million sold in the US and 2.65 million in the UK.
However, as the last book in the series, it’s not worth as much when looking at first edition copies, with a number of exceptions.
These stem from when Rowling launched the book at London’s Natural History Museum.
She signed 1,700 copies of the book for lucky people who won exclusive tickets to the event. Those copies have considerable value in the present day, and prices for signed versions usually begin at the $1,000 mark. A premium copy in great condition can sell for five times as much. If you’re hoping to bag a rare copy, this is the one to look out for.
Harry Potter Book Set – 1st Edition Collectors Guide: Values
With the oldest books in the set reaching their 20th year, it’s no surprise that prices are beginning to rise. The first round of children to read the books are now fully-fledged adults, while there’s always another generation that is likely to enjoy the stories in some shape or form.
As with most sets, collectors would prefer a complete collection with hardback copies where applicable. The UK versions are more valuable, which makes sense considering that they are the true originals. They’re extremely expensive compared to most other books from the late ‘90s and the early ‘00s, but it does drop off as you go through the set.
There’s no getting away from the fact that they are extremely top-heavy. The first books are worth a lot more than later editions that can be picked up for next to nothing unless you’re looking at signed copies specifically. These are the most popular options by far, selling for amounts that vastly exceed the norm for typical first editions.
A complete set of first edition HP books is going to be expensive and will sell in the five-figure range at the very least… signed copies further increase the price, and probably represent the most valuable options overall.
It’s not like Rowling is going to bother signing any more books in her spare time, given the millions she earned from licensing, never mind pure sales.
If you’re looking for the most important book of them all, look out for first-edition copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that were published by Bloomsbury on June 30, 1997. That particular book is exceptionally valuable, with an expected price of somewhere between $30,000 and $55,000. However, the value could be greater still, based on recent sales in England.
A rare first edition copy was recently sold by a retired British ex-pat from Luxembourg, earning £60,000 at auction in the UK. That was twice the expected estimate and shows just how popular the market is for one of the rarest Harry Potter books in existence.
Earlier this year, a hardback first edition which was found in a skip sold for £33,000. Prior to the auction, the hardback had an estimate of £8,000-£12,000 due to some damage to its binding, but that didn’t stop a bidding war from erupting.
Harry Potter – 1st Edition Collectors Guide: The Author
JK Rowling is probably the most likely person to ruin the cash cow that is Harry Potter. Whatever her personal politics actually are, her comments on gender issues have been widely criticized, and make the news infrequently. For example, here’s one of many tweets from the author which focuses on sex and gender;
‘If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It doesn’t hate to speak the truth.’
It’s a far cry from the warm wizarding world she invented, and it’s clearly a personal cause for the author. After a number of spats on social media, even Harry Potter himself (Daniel Radcliffe) waded in, to distance the franchise from her comments;
“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”
Warner Bros. stepped in, hoping to end the matter with a statement;
“The events in the last several weeks have firmed our resolve as a company to confront difficult societal issues. Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world. We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”
In other words, they’re not too bothered, as long as the money continues to roll in.
Consider the movies they produced, which helped to solidify HP’s current status as one of the biggest IPs in the world. Harry Potter still has enormous value, as long as the creator manages to keep her options to herself.
Harry Potter Book Set – 1st Edition Collectors Guide: Versions
The print number is important here, as it’s used as a key to identify exactly what version you’re looking at. For US editions, they note that it’s a “First Edition” on the publisher’s/ copyright page at the front. Additionally, the US printed more books in each run than the UK, even for the first couple of entries.
For example, there were 500,000 1/1 copies of Prisoner of Azkaban, 1,000,000 1/1 copies of Goblet of Fire, and over 6,000,000 1/1 copies of Order of the Phoenix.
Of the US books, only the first two had different versions that were printed. You’ll find a review quote from the Guardian within the earliest copy, while it was later switched to a review from the American publication, Publisher’s Weekly.
Both the US and UK versions have ‘Book Club’ editions, which are worth little in comparison to a true 1/1. The UK also has “Large Print Editions” that were printed for libraries and are not as valuable as the trade editions.
Rough estimates of UK editions are;
- 500 1/1 copies of Philosophers Stone
- 10,150 1/1 copies of Chamber of Secrets
- 10,000 1/1 copies of Prisoner of Azkaban
- 1,000,000 1/1 copies of Goblet of Fire
- 1,000,000+ 1/1 copies of Order of the Phoenix
- 1,000,000+ 1/1 copies of Half-Blood Prince
Roughly a third of the UK Goblet of Fire books were printed in Scotland. The remainder was printed by Clays of London which printed all other UK editions.
Hardback versions are preferred to paperbacks, while you can also keep an eye out for ex-library editions, which tend to be cheaper.
There are also special Celebratory Editions (which were released with each movie), as well as Collectors Editions, often signed by Rowling. They’re another more affordable option for collectors and investors alike, and there are US and UK versions to offer further choice.
Lastly, there are Proofs and Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs). The former was given to reviewers in the UK before the release of the first three books. There are roughly 50-200 copies overall, and many were binned soon afterward. The Chamber of Secrets comes with a special dust-proof jacket.
Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) are the US equivalent, produced for the first three books in the set.
There are between 3,000 and 5,000 of each one, so they are much rarer than the trade version.
Harry Potter Book Set – 1st Edition Collectors Guide: Signed Editions
As we’ve already mentioned, signed copies are extremely valuable, but only if it’s been inked by either the illustrator or the author. Since the 2007 launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, every book signed by Rowling at special events included a holographic sticker to authenticate the signature.
The sticker is an integral part of proving the authenticity of a signed edition, so make sure any books signed since then include a holographic sticker. Of course, that’s not particularly relevant for the majority of the earlier options, with many being inked during various book signings and events before ‘07.
As for first editions signed by the cast, they’re not especially valuable when compared to unsigned copies. It’s also unlikely that Rowling will respond to any requests to sign a first edition copy either, so we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Harry Potter Book Set – 1st Edition Collectors Guide: Investment Outlook
Investment Rating: Strongest Buy Possible (4.8 out of 5)
Ownership Disclosure: None
The Harry Potter set is always going to be a collector’s item, and that is especially true for the rarest first editions.
It’s true that Kindles and smart devices have transformed the way in which we consume media, but there’s still a burgeoning market for rare books, especially when it’s one of the most popular series in existence.
However, it’s unlikely that many of us have first edition copies of the Harry Potter series which just happen to be lying around.
Even if you do, you’d have to have taken special care of it, and that didn’t happen too often, especially when it’s a book made for children.
The earlier you look, the more likely you are to pay a significant premium when looking at first editions in the Harry Potter series.
This is especially true when looking at signed versions, although there’s also a good market for some of the later releases in the set.
Given current trends, we’d strongly recommend looking at the earliest UK first edition options, as long as they’re in decent condition.
Values are likely to rise, and there’s a clear rarity when looking at either the early books or signed versions.
With the prices involved, there are a number of fakes on the market, while many books are mis-sold as first edition copies when they were released in later months. If you do plan to make a purchase, only do so from a reputable dealer.
Prices for first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone have exploded in recent years, as investors and collectors compete to own a true piece of literary history.
It’s undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, and it’s a strong investment piece if you’re looking for long-term options.