Identifying Collectable Harry Potter Books the Easy Way


Look inside the upper inside cover of books one through four, if you see a printed sale price, then you probably have a valuable collector’s item.

Why? Because the first printing of the first edition is desired by collectors and all were printed with a sale price. The popularity of Harry Potter has made the first four books exceptional collector’s items. Even if you detest him, you can’t shake a wand at books that sell for hundreds to ten thousand dollars. The later books in the Harry Potter series fail to bring demand from collectors due to the fact that they were mass printed and everyone bought them during that first run.

Far fewer people have those early copies of the books where the “book year” was not printed on the spine. This applies to the first two books in the series.

As explains about Harry Potter: A Sorceror’s Stone,

“Hardcover first edition first printings of this 1997 book have become the ‘Holy Grail’ for Potter collectors. If you find one in the attic, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

Only 500 were published and 300 went to libraries.”

But don’t reject a copy of The Sorcerer’s Stone if it is not one of those first 200 UK editions, because even later printings of the first American Edition will bring in more than grinning picture of Ben Franklin. First Editions will say “First Edition.”

You can determine their potential value by looking at the inside cover and reading the number line: 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 8 9/9 0/0 01 02. If the book has all the numbers 1 through 10 as the first ten in this sequence, than it is the first edition. As this book was printed in 1998, the same holds true for the second set of numbers that indicate the year, they must range all the way from 8 (1998) and higher. This same method can tell you whether the other Harry Potter books may be of interest to collectors. Other indicators include on the first book, a diamond patterned hardcover.

The third book contained a misprint run where J.K. Rowling’s name read Joanne Rowling. Mistakes such as that and a block of misaligned text on page seven make them rare. In the world of book collecting, rare means valuable.

After book four, J.K. Didn’t frequent the book signing tours as she had while promoting the earlier ones. Signed books are less common in those later books.

If you ever have the opportunity to purchase one of these most sought after rare books, tell me about it? I have this fantasy, we all do, right? That someday, in some yard sale, somewhere, I will find one of these books, and take it home and place it in a glass case. In fact, I mean to photograph myself at the yard sale where I find it, take that picture home and frame it, because while the book has become a piece of history, finding one is now, too.

By the way, I operate a small book museum (on the book shelf in my living room) and if you have one of these books and want to donate them to my museum, I will accept…

By Carrie Bailey

15 thoughts on “Identifying Collectable Harry Potter Books the Easy Way”

  1. This is useful information, but I’m wondering how you should handle the purchase of a valuable book at a yard sale, ethically speaking. I don’t feel right about paying possibly only a dollar or so for something that I recognize as having a significantly higher value.

    It almost feels like stealing from the unsuspecting seller, but at the same time how guarenteed is it that you will be able to resell the book for this much if you are unfamiliar with book buying and selling in general.

    I found this question via my twitter stream and as I enjoy yard sales and books, I hoped you might be able to recommend a solution.

    • The way I see it, someone puts something out in their yard sale because they don’t want it anymore. It’s pretty likely they also don’t want to put the time and effort into learning how to sell things for themselves online, even if they could…which not everyone can. So if you sell their $1 item for a huge profit, it’s because of the value of your hard-earned knowledge. Going back and cutting them in on it when all is said and done is a nice thing to do, and if you believe it is the RIGHT thing to do, I guess you pretty much have to do it. No one is making you except yourself, eh? 🙂

      Then you can consider it from the other direction. I’ve had people want me to find them rare books, but they only want to pay yard sale prices, not the going market rate which they think is “too high”. So if you buy a rare book for a dollar and sell it for $100, are you ripping off your buyer? No, of course not, if the market of willing buyers has set that as the current going rate.

      At least that’s how it seems to me. 🙂

  2. Many years ago when I was a librarian, I had a young student who had returned from a year in England with his family and he was raving and raving about this title he had discovered there. You have to get it, Ms Hedge, you HAVE to, he told me. I was dubious, but I did keep an eye out for it. I know it was at least two years later before I found it in a catalog and ordered it. Sometimes I sit around trying to remember his name…and hoping he held onto that particular volume of that book he loved so much.

    On the subject of what to do when you find something outstanding at a yard sale–the most valuable thing we ever found at a yard sale, we gave the folks a finder’s fee of 10 percent after it sold.

  3. Thanks Caro,

    I agree that a finder’s fee of 10% is a great way help book buyers maintain a good reputation with the public. It might not be an obligation and you have obviously invested time and effort in being able to identify valuable books, but generates a positive feeling all the way around. I really like that and I agree with the other comment that it shouldn’t be obligatory. However, I’ve seen those old couples living on social security and eating dog food…

  4. I have a set of first editions books 1-3. 1998-1999. they were bought at the same time, but both dates are listed on different books.

    and there is two lovely misprints in one of them.

  5. Hi Carrie,
    Nice post, but firsts of Sorcerer’s Stone read “First American Edition” not “First Edition.”The statement “Printed in the U.S.A.23″ must also be present. Also, there will be no designation of “Year 1” on the DJ spine. These do get complicated, but thanks for starting the discussion!

  6. I have books 2-4. They say “First Edition” on them. I found the second book at a thrift store and payed a dollar for it. And I found books 3 and 4 on a website and payed .75 each. They came with the dust jacket and all. I have read these books 7 times each. I am starting on the 4th books for the 7th time a couple of days ago. I m so happy i read this post because I didn’t know I had anything valuable.

  7. I have the first edition of HP 7, it was printed upside down and the only way to read it is to start from the back of the book…. Any idea it’s value it’s in great condition

  8. I have an edition 1/50 I think of HP& the Philosopher’s stone PB with copyright text notice to Joanne Rowling 1997

  9. Hi i have the harry potter book the prisoner of Azkaban, it has pages 49-96 missing then it goes from 97 to 144, then back to page 97 until the end.  Could this be worth valuing of keeping for kids and maybe in a decade it may be worth something.

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