“Harry Potter” Cover Artwork Could Smash Records at Auction

Next month, a watercolor that became the original 1997 book cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone might become the most expensive Potter item ever sold at auction. From June 21 to 25, the general public can visit Sotheby’s in New York to see the watercolor painting of Harry and the Hogwarts Express before it goes up for auction on June 26.

The piece was painted in 1996 by a 23-year-old Welsh artist, Thomas Taylor, who had left art school just one year prior. His now iconic watercolor became the cover for Bloomsbury’s very first edition of Philosopher’s Stone. It was the young artist’s first-ever professional commission for artwork. He completed the painting in two days’ time.


A watercolor painting shows Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express

A Sotheby’s employee holds Thomas Taylor’s soon-to-be-auctioned watercolor of Harry Potter and the Hogwarts Express. (Source: Sotheby’s)


Currently, the record for the most expensive sale of any Potter item is from 2001, when a bidder at a Dallas auction paid $471,000 for an unsigned, first-edition hardcover of Philosopher’s Stone. In London the same year, Taylor’s watercolor was auctioned for a then-record-breaking $107,000 (£85,750). About 23 years have passed since the London sale, and this time, experts anticipate that Taylor’s watercolor of Harry and the Hogwarts Express will command bids of between $400,000 and $600,000.

Want to place a bid? Keep an eye on the Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko sale. The auction is named after an American surgeon and book lover who passed away in 2022. In addition to Taylor’s watercolor, the auction will also include rare books. Attendees will have a chance to bid on a handwritten manuscript of The Tales of Beetle the Bard, as well as signed works from authors including Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. The auction will start at 10:00 a.m. ET on June 26. 


Growing up, I always had a fantasy book in my hand. I read through countless math classes, family meals, sermons, and sporting events. By my mid twenties, with four jobs and the Harry Potter books to keep me warm at night, I earned my degree in Literature and Journalism in Boston, graduated with honors, and became a professional writer. These days, I'm a balanced, childless adult, working towards a reasonable aspiration of becoming a witch. Find me online @RobesForAllOccasions