A PRIMARY school headteacher couldn’t believe his luck when he found an ultra-rare Harry Potter book worth £20,000 stashed in a classroom.
Former headteacher Bob Alder, 75, says the book – an early proof copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – was bought for just £1 by staff at St Kenelm’s Primary School in Minster Lovell, Witney, in 1997.
It was presumed lost until it recently resurfaced during a summer tidy-up.
“The book was purchased from Red House Books Ltd, which held an annual sale of books from its warehouse in Witney,” Bob told The Sun.
“Local schools, nurseries and playgroups had the first choice of books in the sale.
"It was quite by luck that the Harry Potter was spotted in the sale.
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"It had none of the attractiveness of a typical child’s paperback. It cost £1. It was not thought to have any value.”
The book was then forgotten until Bob came across it on a classroom shelf in 2002, as Harry Potter mania had started taking over the world.
“I thought ‘that’s got to be worth something’,” Bob said.
“I had a look online and saw that first edition copies were selling for £2-3,000 and I thought there would be rather more of those in circulation, so I took it off the shelf and put it in an envelope with the idea of getting it valued for the school to sell.”
However, between teaching classes and running the school as headteacher, Bob had little time on his hands and the book slipped his mind.
“I completely forgot where I had put it,” Bob admitted.
“I was so busy teaching, I just completely forgot about it.”
By the time Bob remembered the book, he had no idea where to look for it and assumed it must have been accidentally thrown away – until it miraculously resurfaced last month.
Bob has now retired but still works one day a week managing the school’s finances and it was this part-time role that led him back to the valuable book.
“I went into the school during the summer holidays to clear out some files and shred documents we no longer need and there it was tucked away in a small box,” Bob said.
“I was surprised, delighted, relieved and immediately thought ‘I better go and get this valued.’”
The book, which is such an early example it even gets J K Rowling’s name wrong on the cover, will go under the hammer on September 5 at Hansons Auctioneers with a guide price of £15,000-£20,000.
Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons said: “This book is where it all began. This is the very first appearance in print of the first Harry Potter novel.
The title page states the author’s name as J A Rowling and, on the other side, Joanne Rowling.
“It’s believed just 200 copies of this book were printed by Bloomsbury.
"This modest little paperback is the beginning of it all.
"The author’s signing tours, the midnight queues outside bookshops, the movies, the merchandise – it all stems from this.”
Stunned Bob says he thought the valuation “couldn’t be true” when he was given the figure and is thrilled to have found the book, which remains in great condition, after eight years.
“If this does sell it will be wonderful for the school,” Bob said.
“It will mean more resources for the children and we can buy lots of new books as the school’s are getting quite faded and jaded.
“It really depends how much the book sells for, but quite a lot of resources could be improved on and any money made will benefit the school directly.
"It’s in amazingly good condition – so I’m hopeful.”
Jim said: “I have made several important Harry Potter discoveries but this is extra special, and a first for me.
"Since 2017 Hansons has sourced and sold 16 super rare hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which were published in the very first 500-book print run.
“This find is even more scarce. Not only that, it takes us back a stage further in the evolution of the multi-million-pound Potter phenomenon.
"This is an original proof copy of a book which went on to take the world by storm.
“Hansons has sold hardback Philosopher’s Stone first editions for prices ranging from £15,500 to £69,000 depending on condition.
"I’m guiding this Uncorrected Proof Copy at £15,000-20,000.
"However, bearing in mind its place in history, it could surprise us all.”
How to find valuable books
If you have books collecting dust at home that you think may be valuable, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, the condition of it is key and will impact the value.
First edition books are also highly sought-after and will usually be more valuable than a later printing.
Better yet, if the author has signed it, you can expect it to be worth more.
The number of copies in existence will also have an impact.
To check if your books are valuable, it's worth first looking up completed listings on eBay and filtering by the highest value.
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You can also decide to have it valued by auction houses but be aware of any fees.
If you decide to sell, remember that you're not guaranteed to be quids in.
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