Full Set of Signed First-Edition “Harry Potter” Books Fail to Sell at Auction
Recently, a complete set of signed first-edition Harry Potter books went up for auction at a prestigious auction house in England known as Christie’s. On paper, an auction of this nature seems like a no-brainer and an easy sell. All seven books were included in the lot, all were first editions, and all were inscribed or signed by the author. Unfortunately, the books didn’t leave the auction house.
Past auctions of first-edition Harry Potter books have been huge successes, often selling their lots for six figures. Given how rare a set like this actually is, it’s surprising to learn that this auction flopped. The estimated bidding range for the set from Christie’s was about £100,000–£150,000 ($120,000–$180,000). The highest price tag seen for a sale like this was for a first-edition Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from an auction in Dallas, Texas. The book sold for nearly half a million dollars, and anyone has yet to beat that price.
The seller of the set, a bookstore in Portugal known as Livraria Lello, promised a portion of the proceeds from the auction to Lumos. The charity was founded by the author and works to support children who have undergone situations that result in family separation.
So what happened here? Rumors around why the sale failed are pretty shaky. According to the Mary Sue, there’s a rumor that some of the books’ signatures are fraudulent. Christie’s page for the lot has since been updated to include a comment in the “Details” section of the listing saying, “Please note that a signed copy of the fifth volume, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, has replaced the signed copy [that] initially appeared in the online catalogue.” However, there’s been no confirmation of a forged signature in the fifth or any of the other books.
It’s not likely that a lack of attention to the sale is what made it flop. This auction in particular got media attention from Lumos and the author, both of which announced on Twitter that the books were going to be auctioned. Could it possibly be that attention from the author herself is what killed the auction before it took place? There’s a bit of a leap to that assumption, but it’s not impossible. Much of the fandom has been actively moving away from the author in recent years. While it’s not likely that money from the sale itself would make its way back to the author, her publicly supporting the auction and the contributions to a charity she founded could have attached her a little too closely to the sale for any buyer’s liking.
Christie’s has not announced a plan to put the books back up for sale or what will happen if another auction is off the table. Since the initial auction didn’t lead to a sale, a couple of options are left for these books. When a lot goes unsold, the auction house could potentially buy the item(s) from the seller. But houses don’t often like this option since the item(s) already proved difficult to move and therefore much less profitable. It’s also possible that Livraria Lello, the bookstore that currently owns the books, will simply take them back.
What do you think happened with this auction? Let us know.