How to Spot a Great Harry Potter Book - UK Site

Views 69 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this guide is helpful


Please note there were very few copies of Beetle the Bard signed in Edinburgh in early December, 2008.  Of these, almost all the signed books had holographic stickers applied to them.  To protect your collection and investment, you should look for a sticker when purchasing a signed copy of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard".

Since the 7/14/2007 launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, EVERY book signed by J.K. Rowling at special and signing events have included a holographic sticker to authenticate the signature.  The sticker is VITAL to proving the authenticity of your signed book, so please make sure any books supposedly signed since then include a holographic sticker.  Each sticker has been a little different.  If you have any doubts about the authenticity of the sticker in a book you would like to buy, please email me and I can help validate it.


The purpose of this guide is to provide information on collecting U.S. and U.K. Harry Potter Books.  It is a snippet from a web page I maintain on a popular Harry Potter fan site.

Harry Potter books are my favorite item to collect.  What I like about the books is that their place in history is assured and they are fun and easy to collect once you know the rules.  They also make great gifts for children or fellow fans.  Books can also have a great individual history and be a part of Harry's history.  For example, I purchased a signed UK "Goblet of Fire"  from a member of the train crew which served on "The Hogwarts Express Book Tour" when "Goblet" was released.  It came with lots of wonderful items, including private photos taken on the tour.  It's one of my favorite-ever finds on eBay.  Following are a few tips for collecting books wisely.

The book’s PRINT NUMBER is the most valuable key for identifying a collectible book.  Everyone who is thinking about collecting books should know how to interpret this number.  It is found at the bottom of the publisher’s page, which located just before the title page in most books.  The first set of numbers in the line indicate the print number for that particular book, which is indicated by the lowest number in the set.  The second set of numbers indicates what year the book was published, once again indicated by the lowest number in the set.  Therefore, the number line

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1     0/0 01 02 03

indicates a FIRST PRINTING printed in 2000.  (This would be found in a 1/1 (First Edition/First Printing) U.S. Goblet of Fire, for example.)  The U.K. editions of Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix use the term “FIRST EDITION” on the publisher’s page to denote 1/1 copies.

There is also a condition known as a state, whereby something about the book or dust jacket was changed during a print run.  In order to be a TRUE FIRST EDITION, a book must be FIRST EDITION/FIRST PRINTING and (if applicable) FIRST STATE. 

Many sellers misstate information in their listings or omit certain information, thus artificially inflating the value of their book.   Generally, we do not believe this is intentional.  Sellers who sell many different sets of books don't always have specific knowledge of the Harry Potter books, and may make honest mistakes.

The U.S. Trade Editions

One of the easiest sets to collect are the U.S. trade editions.  By “trade edition”, I mean those books which were meant for mass distribution in the U.S. I am also speaking of books which include the “First Edition” denotation on the publisher’s page (the page with all the printing information and numbers). 

First, let’s discuss the hardback books.  The first thing you should know about the U.S. books is that as of this point in time they ALL say “First Edition” on the publisher’s (or copywrite) page facing the title page.  Additionally, the U.S. printed more books in each run than did the U.K.  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.  First printings are worth from $500 to $2,500, and early printings of this book do have some value (starting at about $50).)

The really nice thing about the U.S. editions, is that you can collect a fine set of books which includes an early print of The Sorcerer’s Stone and 1/1 copies of all the other books for about $350, if you shop carefully. Although their value should increase, they will probably never be tremendously valuable.  There were simply too many printed.  However, they are affordable and make a wonderful gift for yourself or a special Harry Potter fan. You can own or give a piece of literary history without making a huge investment.

Please take a moment to note that any U.S. hardback Harry Potter book which has only black boards and NO diamond imprint (“boards” are composed of the front and back hard covers and spine) is a BOOK CLUB COPY – and nowhere near as valuable as those books with the appropriate two-color, diamond pattern boards.  Similarly, any U.S. dustjacket which does NOT have raised foil covering the "Harry Potter" section of the book title belongs to a BOOK CLUB book.

The Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were the only U.S. editions to have multiple states in the first printing.  The Sorcerer's Stone has TWO states of the 1/1.  The very first books printed had a review from a British publication, “The Guardian”, on the back 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, “Publisher's Weekly”.  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.  The first state in fine condition routinely costs well over $1,500.  The second state in similar condition costs $500 and up.  The U.S. Chamber of Secrets had THREE states of the 1/1.  The first state has NO number 2 on the spine NOR the dust jacket.  The second state introduces the number 2 on the dust jacket and spine, and the third state shows a price increase from $17.95 to $19.95 on the jacket.  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 1/1 copies printed.  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.  There were a total of 250,000 1/1 copies of The Chamber of Secrets printed.  We have no information on how many were in each state, but once again the first state is far more desirable.  There were 500,000 1/1 copies of The Prisoner of Azkaban, 1,000,000 1/1 copies of The Goblet of Fire, and over 6,000,000 1/1 copies of The Order of the Phoenix.

Now, a few quick comments on the U.S. soft cover books.  There are now several editions of the soft cover books out.  The first edition has Mary Grand Pre’s artwork on the cover and is oversized, for children.  They do not currently have any extraordinary value other than providing the pleasure of owning a set of 1/1 Harry Potter books.  You can usually obtain a full set of 1/1 paperback editions for less than $150, if you shop carefully.

The U.K. Trade Editions

If your thirst for collecting is not quenched by the U.S. editions, there are many countries which publish their own editions of the Harry Potter Books (Canada, Australia, Spain, Japan, Russia, Wales, etc.).  However, unsurprisingly, the crown jewels reside in the U.K.  These books are more expensive than their U.S. counterparts.  Not only are they from “the country of origin”, but they are also far more rare than their U.S. cousins.  Consequently, the early UK editions are very expensive.  1/1 copies of the first 3 books may cost anywhere from $800 to well over $15,000 (in the case of the ultra-rare Philosopher’s Stone).  However, the Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix may be found for $50 and $35, respectively.  There are also “Children” and “Adult” copies of these books.  The covers are the only difference, and the Children’s copies are generally more collectible.  For that reason, we will discuss them below.

The UK version of a “book club edition” is the “Ted Smart Edition”.  Although these books do have some value, they are not nearly as valuable as the true trade editions.  They are identified on the publisher’s page thus, "Printed for The Book People".  Also, the dust jacket of a "Ted Smart Edition" may have ordering information on the back cover.  Likewise, the "Large Print Editions" were printed for libraries and are not nearly as valuable as the trade editions.  Many sellers sell Ted Smart and Large Print Editions without clearly identifying them as the less valuable volumes, so make certain you get clarification from them if you have any questions whatsoever.  They are easily spotted, as the words "Large Print Edition" appear in the black band located on the bottom of the cover.  Exercise caution when purchasing and make certain you are getting the edition you want.

Unlike the U.S. trade editions, there is currently only one UK trade edition which has multiple states.  The Prisoner of Azkaban 1/1 has THREE states.  The first state listed the copyright to Joanne Rowling, rather than JK Rowling.  There is also dropped text in this state, but the copyright alone will indicate it is a first state.  The second state corrects the copyright to J.K. Rowling, lists Clays St. Ives as the printer, and has no ads in the rear.  The third state does not mention a printer and has ads at the rear of the book.  There is a VAST difference in the value between these states.  In fine condition, the first state routinely costs over $1,500.  The second and third state in similar condition bring $150 to $500.

The 1/1 Goblet of Fire is often advertised as a first state and errors within the pages are quoted.  (For example, “James exits Harry’s wand first, followed by Lily”.)  Actually, these errors existed throughout the entire first printing and there is only one state of this book.

The Philosopher’s Stone 1/1 is VERY rare.  There were 200 soft cover and 300 hardback books printed at the same time.  They are very expensive ($4,000 and up depending on condition).  They were issued without a dust jacket.  Early printings may be obtained for $400 and up depending on condition and print number.  The third printing was historically significant as the first printing which included a dust jacket.  To the best of our knowledge, there were 10,150 1/1 copies of The Chamber of Secrets, 10,000 1/1 copies of The Prisoner of Azkaban (500 of those were first state), and  1,000,000 1/1 copies of The Goblet of Fire.  About 1/3 of the U.K. GOF books were printed at Omnia Books in Scotland.  The remainder were printed by Clays of London which is the printer of for all other U.K. editions.  The Omnia copies may be a bit more valuable since there are fewer of them.  We have not confirmed information on the number of copies in the two 1/1 versions of the UK trade Order of the Phoenix, but can safely say it was over 1,000,000 copies. The same is true if the number of copies in the two 1/1 versions of the UK trade Half-Blood Prince. 

Collecting 1/1 copies of the U.K. paperbacks makes a nice alternative to their very expensive hardback cousins.  There are now several editions of the soft cover books out.  The first editions were printed in 1997 through 2003 and are the most collectible.  They cost between $20 and $200 each, with the early books being the most expensive.  The 1/1 soft cover Philosopher’s Stone is beyond reach for most of us.  It was released concurrently with the hard back edition and only 200 copies were in the first printing.  However, with careful shopping, a good early edition may be purchased for $500-$3,000, depending on condition.

Another great option for the collector who wants to own first edition UK books is purchasing ex-library copies.  These are books which once resided in libraries or school libraries in the U.K.  After leaving service, they are sold in library sales or removed while libraries are being updated.  They are usually a bit beat up, but they are quite affordable and appear on eBay occasionally.  Recently, I was able to  purchase 2 UK paperbacks, an early Philosopher's Stone and a first printing Chamber of Secrets, WITH JKR's signature from a gentleman who helped clean out a school library.  They came with stickers on them which certify them to be "Signed by the Author".  I bought both of them for only $200.  Yes, they are a bit ragged, BUT the signatures are 100% correct and I like to think that JKR would love the fact that dozens of children enjoyed Harry's adventures through these books.  Many ealry UK Potter books went to libraries.  It is part of the history of Harry.  So, if you are looking for affordable, collectible books, take a look at ex-library books and see if they are for you.  Make sure you also look for the stamp that says the book was properly withdrawn from circulation.

Celebratory Editions (which have been released with each movie) have foil stars on their covers.  They are less valuable, but do make a nice set.  You should be able to find them for about $10.00 each.  The second editions were all published in 2004 and feature new cover designs.  You should be able to pick up the complete set of 1/1 books for $50 to $80.  The first edition trade soft covers do hold more value than their U.S. counterparts, as there were far fewer printed.  The celebratory and second editions do not currently have any extraordinary value other than providing the pleasure of owning a set of 1/1’s.   

Collectors and Deluxe Editions

There are collector’s editions of all the Harry Potter books available in both the U.K. and the U.S. 

The U.K. Deluxe Editions are quite lovely and make wonderful, reasonably priced gifts for fans.  They are bound in cloth boards with the cover from the U.K. book in the center of the front cover.  They also feature J.K. Rowling’s signature in gold, gild-edged pages, and a sewn-in silk bookmark.  The 1/1 copies of these books are quite rare and are priced from $65 to $1,500.  The Prisoner of Azkaban is especially rare and is usually priced between $1,500 and $2,000.  There were only 7,000 copies printed.  There were 12,000 copies of the 1/1 Philosopher’s Stone and 17,000 of the 1/1 Chamber of Secrets printed.  As with the trade editions, there were significantly more 1/1 copies of the Goblet of Fire (30,000 to 35,000) and Order of the Phoenix printed, making them significantly less valuable.  The term “First Edition” is used on the publisher’s page of both the GOF and OotP to indicate a true first edition.  Misinformation on these print numbers was widely disseminated among book sellers.  It incorrectly identified these books as more rare than they actually are.  Please make sure you are aware that the higher numbers listed here come from the publisher, Bloomsbury Books, and should be accurate.

The U.S. Collector’s Editions are a little less desirable to me, personally.  (You may disagree.)  The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are made of a pressed leather material.  The Sorcerer’s Stone does have a great drawing of Harry by J.K. Rowling in the front of the book.  There were 100,000 copies of each printed and to my knowledge there was no second printing.  I had heard that Scholastic planned on printing The Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire in successive Novembers.  However, I have not heard anything within the past year to indicate that they are following through on that plan.  Additionally, the U.S. Deluxe Edition of Order of the Phoenix does not look like the Collector’s Editions.  It is not leather bound, but has a special dust jacket with more Grand Pre artwork on it (depicting Grimmauld Place) and comes housed in a nice slip case.

Proofs and Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs)

Proofs were released to editors and reviewers in the U.K. 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 (I’ve heard anywhere from 50 to 200 copies) and many were damaged or thrown away.  Therefore, they are quite rare and quite valuable.  A Proof Copy of the Philosopher’s Stone in good condition will generally cost over $6,000.  The Chamber of Secrets will cost over $3,000, as will The Prisoner of Azkaban.  These books have soft covers.  As far as I know, only the COS featured a proof dust jacket wrapped around it.

The U.S. equivalent of proofs are ARCs.  They 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 U.S. trade edition.  They generally cost between $200 and $1,000 each, depending on title and condition.

Comic Relief "Text Books"

JK Rowling wrote two small "text Books" for Comic Relief.  They are "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them".  They are available in U.S. and U.K. editions, and even in a "book bag" edition.  The 1/1 editions are available for about $10-$15 each.  They are not terribly collectible, but are lots of fun to read.

A Word About Signed Books

You should be very careful when you set out to purchase signed books.  If you have limited experiance, seek help so that you can purchase a real treasure you will be happy with for years to come.

Stay well and enjoy your collection!

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides