Sotheby's to Offer Most Valuable Harry Potter Item at Auction

Thursday, May 2, 2024
Sotheby's to Offer Most Valuable Harry Potter Item at Auction

This June, a universally recognized literary illustration is set to go to auction at Sotheby’s: Thomas Taylor’s original watercolor for the first book in the beloved Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Taylor’s work, featured on the covers of the first edition of the novel in 1997, is estimated at $400,000 to $600,000, marking the highest pre-sale estimate ever placed on an item of any Harry Potter-related work. The illustration is a highlight from the forthcoming sale of The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko, a small, highly significant library of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English and American literature, and will be offered on 26 June alongside works by literary greats such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allan Poe, among others.

At just 23 years old, Taylor’s first professional commission as a budding illustrator was the then-unremarkable responsibility of being the first artist to visualize the as-yet-unknown character, Harry Potter. The assignment came from Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury for a novel by an unpublished author by the name of Jo Rowling, and Taylor was among the first to read the manuscript and experience J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Taylor’s charming submission featured a young Harry Potter boarding the train to Hogwarts, unaware that his magical depictions would enchant readers worldwide for years to come. With over 500 million copies sold worldwide and translations in 80 languages, the series has become a worldwide hit. Taylor’s first-ever depiction of the boy wizard, coined the “universal image” of Harry Potter himself, is complete with his trademark dark hair, round glasses, and lightning bolt scar.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Harry Potter series in June 2023, Taylor’s original cover was featured in Bloomsbury Publishing’s commemorative reprint of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, taking Potter devotees on a nostalgic journey to where the magic first began and further cementing the illustration’s legacy as a key part of the Harry Potter lore for millions of fans worldwide.

Taylor’s iconic illustration was first offered at auction in 2001 at Sotheby’s London, when only the first four books in the series were published and the story of Harry Potter had yet to be completed. However, Pottermania was already a global phenomenon and the presale estimate of £20,000 - £25,000 was, at the time, the highest estimate placed on any Harry Potter-related material. The illustration realized a record-breaking £85,750, and now, more than 20 years later, the original illustration returns to auction poised to not only far exceed the value it previously sold, but also to potentially set a new auction record for any Harry Potter related item. In 2021, an unsigned first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stonesold for $421,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, marking the current record price ever achieved for an item related to the Harry Potter series.

Main Image :Thomas Taylor, Illustration for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 1997, est. $400,000 - 600,000

Stephanie Cime

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