Saturday, 28 November 2009


This posting covers everything you would ever wish to know about spotting errors and points of interest on first issue and First Edition copies of the very first book in the Harry Potter series.

The Philosopher’s Stone 1st printing is VERY rare. There were 200 soft cover and 300 hardback books printed at the same time. They are seldom found in fine condition and are very expensive. Hardback printings 1 and 2 were issued without a dust jacket, the third printing was historically significant as it was the first printing which included a dust jacket. In comparison to so few copies of this first title in the franchise, there were 10,150 first printings of The Chamber of Secrets (book 2), and 1million copies of The Goblet of Fire (book 4).

The problem with finding book 1 in the Harry Potter series is not only the scarcity, but it's condition. Nearly all first printings of both formats were destined for UK public and school libraries. After leaving the library service they are sold in library sales or thrown away. With heavy wear, tears, marks and library stamps these often appear on the market, but are far less desirable than a pristine copy of the same title. The price is often only 1/10 of the pristine version, but for the long term it is always better to invest in quality.

Collecting 1st Printing copies of the UK paperbacks makes an affordable alternative to their very expensive hardback counterparts. There are several editions of the soft cover books available, the first and most collectible were printed in 1997 through 2003 and are the most collectible. They cost anywhere from £10 and £100 each, with the early books being the most expensive. The original 1st printing soft cover Philosopher’s Stone is beyond reach for many collectors. It was released concurrently with the hardback edition and only 200 copies were in the first printing.

All US books say “First Edition” on the publisher’s page. The US also printed far more books in each run than the UK, therefore just about the only editions with any financial value are first printings and signed editions. The exception to this is the Sorcerer’s Stone, which had a small initial print run of 30,000. The exciting thing about the US editions, is that you can collect a fine set of books for a reasonable price. However, although their value should increase over time, they will probably never be tremendously valuable and certainly never reach the value of their UK counterparts as there were simply too many printed.

Any US hardback Harry Potter book which has only black boards and NO diamond imprint is a Book Club edition and nowhere near as valuable as those books with the appropriate two-color, diamond pattern boards. Similarly, any US dustjacket which does not have the embossed foil covering the "Harry Potter" section of the book title is a Book Club. The Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were the only US editions to have multiple states in the first printing. The Sorcerer's Stone has two states of the first print. The very first books printed had a review from the British “The Guardian” newspaper, on the rear of the dust jacket. Although there are other differences, this quote alone will distinguish the first state. The second state has a review from an American publication, “The Gazette”. The book behind either of these dust jackets would not have the number 1 on its spine. If it does have the number 1 present, someone has put a newer book inside and older dust jacket. The first state is considerably more valuable than the second state. Always check both book and dust jacket. You may find that someone has placed the dust jacket from a valuable book around one which is not worth as much. The first state of this book is far more collectible than either of the other states. According to the back of the Advanced Reader's Copy of the Sorcerer's Stone, there were a total of only 30,000 first printings issued. We have no information on how many were in each state, but the first state is more desirable and seems to be much more rare.

The US paperback books have several editions. The first edition has Mary Grand Pre’s artwork on the cover and is oversized, for children. These are easily found online and in second hand book stores.

Deluxe Editions

The Harry Potter series has also been published as a deluxe edition. The UK Deluxe Editions are bound with cloth boards with the original cover from the UK trade edition as a paste down to the front board. They also feature a facsimile J K Rowling signature in gold. The books have gilt edged pages, and a sewn-in silk bookmark. The first printings of these books can be quite rare and priced anywhere from £40 to £1500. The Prisoner of Azkaban is especially hard to find as there were only 7,000 copies printed. There were 12,000 copies of the first print Philosopher’s Stone. It is worth noting the deluxe editions did not go into production until 1999 (some two years after the release of the first Harry Potter book, so books 1, 2 and 3 in affect had a simultaneous release in the deluxe format in 1999. The first official release of Harry Potter in the deluxe format was actually book 3, hence the smaller quantity and higher value.

The US Collector's editions are far less desirable to collectors, though many feel are of better quality. The Sorcerer’s Stone is made of a pressed leather material. It also features a facsimile drawing by J K Rowling near the beginning. There were 100,000 copies printed of both books 1 and 2 as a deluxe format and no subsequent printings. Scholastic planned on printing The Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire in successive Novembers, but these never saw the light of day. The US Deluxe edition of Order of the Phoenix and subsequent titles does not look like the original Collector’s Editions. They are not leather bound, housed in special dust jackets with additional Grand Pre artwork and housed in a slip case, but are little more than the standard hardback.

Advance Reading Copy
Proofs were released to editors and reviewers in the UK prior to publication of the first three Harry Potter books. They contain numerous errors which were remedied before the first printing and feature release information on the rear cover. These proofs were very limited in number anywhere from 50 to 200 copies and many were damaged or thrown away. Theses are naturally quite rare and valuable. The US equivalent were also printed prior to the first three books. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 of each printed, making them far more rare than any US trade edition, but nowhere near as collectible as their UK counterparts.

Large Print Editions
These are large format books to assist those with reading difficulties and younger children. They were available for retail sale within the UK and not exclusively for libraries as some claim. They have little intrinsic value other than for completests, though do tend to sell at overinflated prices.

Celebratory Editions
Issued within the UK as a paperback format only, these replicate the original jacket sleeve, with foil stars around the border on each cover. They were released to coincide with each movie release and have little value.

Adult Editions
The appeal of certain modern day fiction is so widespread, a publisher will target various markets to sell their author. J K Rowling, Philip Pullman & G P Taylor are good examples of children and young adult fiction becoming widely accepted by an adult market. A different book jacket I guess makes an adult look less of a child. However, the Taylor and Pullman series of books don't have a specific "young" feel to them so I can only presume their adult jackets were released to make money.

Specific to Harry Potter, the adult wrappers tended to arrive only in paperback and well after the initial children's book is released so by default are unlikely to be as quite as desirable to the collector as the true First Issues. However, Bloomsbury have done wonders with their most recent adult covers of the Harry Potter series. They released their first adult hardback variant with Phoenix on day 1 of the Phoenix children's release and from it's popularity then re-released the whole Harry Potter series in adult paperback, and then for the first time hardback. The Harry Potter ADULT hardback set is quite stunning and will no doubt become quite collectible in time.
The print size of the adult series tends to be far lower than the initial children print runs we see nowadays. They also tend to receive very little or no direct promotion or marketing, again making them scarcer.

Signed varieties of the adult covers are far rarer than their children's counterpart as no signing tours are made for the adult covers. Sadly, even signed they do not reflect their true rarity value which is a real shame. Personally, I have only ever seen 1 true signed adult hardback of Phoenix and Half Blood Prince. I have never seen any of the other adult Harry Potters signed. When I met with G P Taylor in 2004, he signed my adult paperbacks of Shadowmancer and said he had only ever signed a handful of that book!

Here are a few of the more common errors and text contradictions to look out for within the most sought after UK variant of Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone:
  • The publisher page lists the author as Joanne Rowling (this was later changed to J K Rowling)
  • The jacket artist name Thomas Taylor is listed as "Thomas Taylor1997" with no space.
  • In chapter 7, at the Sorting Ceremony, after Harry's turn to be sorted, the book says there are 3 more persons to be sorted, but the Hat actually sorts 4: Dean, Lisa, Ron and Blaise.
  • One book Harry bought was "One Thousand Magic Herbs and Fungi", but at the end of the book it refers to it as "One Hundred Magic Herbs and Fungi".
  • Harry's birthday is on July 31, and book 1 was set in 1991. In book 1 Harry said that his birthday was on a Tuesday, the day after Dudley's favourite show (The Great Humberto) and July 31, 1991 was actually a Wednesday.
  • In chapter 16 (page 205 UK edition, 282 American edition), when Harry, Herimone, and Ron take the places of the chess pieces Ron says: "Well, Harry, you take the place of that bishop, and Hermione, you go next to him instead of that castle." But the bishop is not next to the castle, the knight is in between them.