Rare editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone have topped the list of the most valuable books that could be tucked away in your attic – with a magical price tag of £50,000.
Online antique marketplace, LoveAntiques.com, commissioned book expert Matthew Haley, director and head of books and manuscripts at Bonhams, to compile the list of most valuable books the public may have at home, alongside guidelines for collecting.
Matthew found that first editions or a full set of volumes can command the highest prices, as well as those that were manufactured as a one-off – with a special version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone coming out on top.
The 10 most valuable books are as follows:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), J.K. Rowling – £50,000
- The Hobbit (1937), J.R.R. Tolkien – £40,000
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901), Beatrix Potter – £35,000
- A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens – £15,000
- The four Winnie-the-Pooh books (1924-1928), A.A. Milne – from £4,000-10,000
- Eleven Poems (1965), Seamus Heaney – £3,500
- Foundation trilogy (1951-1953), Isaac Asimov – £3,000 +
- Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Arthur Rackham-illustrated – £2,500 +
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1921), Agatha Christie – £2,000
- Verve, 1950s art magazine – £1,500 +
The full list includes details which the books must have to command the highest prices, for example for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to be worth £50,000 it must be a hardback and have a series of numbers running from 10 down to 1 on the back of the title page. If The Hobbit is a first edition, in perfect condition and has a typo corrected by hand on the back, it is worth £40,000.
Antique book prices can vary based on the overall condition of the book and the packaging that it’s in. In the set of investor guidelines, Matthew Haley states that the condition and completeness of the book is paramount, and any damage such as missing title pages or spine, could decrease the value of the collectable by a hundredth of what a collector would pay for it, compared to if it were in mint condition.
The guidelines also advise to keep the dust jackets for the books – most 20th century books need to have their original dust-jacket to be of collectable value. Although there are always exceptions, for example the first printed edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone did not have a dust-jacket.
Prospectus collectors can check for first editions by identifying if the book has the correct year on the front of the title page, and no mentions of any other editions or impressions on the back.
Matthew said, “Searching your bookshelves for treasures can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but in every auction, we have sellers who are stunned by how much their old books make. If you have an extremely old, rare or a book similar to the ones on this list, which is in good condition, you really could be looking at a small fortune.”
Will Thomas managing director at LoveAntiques.com said, “We deal with an array of antiques – whether it be furniture, silver or even records. However, its interesting to see just how much old books can be worth and how much stashed cash people might have lying around in their attics, completely unbeknown to them.”
He added, “I think the fact that Harry Potter tops the list shows that a book doesn’t have to antique or old for it to be of incredible value, which may give people hope that they could own a very special piece of literature.”
See the full list of the 20 most valuable antique books and the expert’s set of investor guidelines.