Auction Results

Harry Potter illustration auctions for wizarding record


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone cover art
Image courtesy Sotheby's

A watercolour illustration from the first Harry Potter book set a new record for the character when it was auctioned in New York on Wednesday, June 26 for $1.9 million.

A 10-minute battle between phone and online bidders ended with a record sale that smashed a top extimate of $600,000 at Sotheby’s.

The picture is the work of Thomas Taylor. It is the cover image from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first novel in the series and the debut novel of author JK Rowling.

It was sold during a series of auctions of the Library of Dr Rodney P Swantko. The whole collection realised $6 million in total.

Among Dr Swantko’s treasures were a manuscript of The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which sold for $960,000.

The Potter piece was sold in 2001 in London. It set a record then, selling for £85,750 against an estimate of £20,000 to £25,000.

This week’s sale confirms an increase of around 2,116% in just over 20 years.

This painting has appreciated around 100%-a-year over the 23 years since it was last sold.

It’s also a substantial increase on the previous Potter record, the $421,000 paid for a first edition, unsigned, of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2021. The book was in unusually good condition.

JK Rowling’s work is very collectible. But the Harry Potter series stands out.

A 2013 sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone realised £173,905, thanks to Rowling’s annotations and sketches.

An uncorrected proof copy of the Philosopher’s Stone, complete with misspelling of the author’s name, made £11,000 earlier this year.

First editions of the book can make 10s of thousands of pounds.

Very few hardback first editions were produced (Thomas Taylor estimates 450). Rowling was unknown, and there was no indication her first book was about to become a runaway cultural phenomenon.

Rowling’s signature is among the most valuable of living writers too, realising up to £2,000 for good quality signatures on an interesting or appropriate medium.

Add the signature to the books and you elevate both. A signed copy of an early first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone made just short of £70,000 at auction in London in 2019.

Reportedly, Thomas Taylor, who produced the image sold this week (his first professional commission), never bought a first-edition copy of the book. His imagining of the young wizard became the accepted avatar of one of the best-known characters in all of children’s literature. He is now a children’s book author himself.

Just Collecting