The J.K. Rowling price inflation

by Liz on August 23, 2012 · Children's rare books, Market Analysis

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Among the many prominent British figures present at the opening ceremony of this summer’s Olympic Games, was the celebrated and acclaimed author J.K. Rowling. Judging from Rowling’s wild success in the literary world, it is no great surprise that she appeared at the occasion. In a span of merely fifteen years, she has captured the hearts and gained the respect of millions of people around the globe with her riveting and engrossing Harry Potter series.
While Rowling is today considered to be the thirteenth richest woman in Britain, her beginnings as an author of fiction were certainly not easy. As a single mother, Rowling strove to support her daughter while relying on the assistance of welfare. On the train one day, she became inspired to write what eventually became the world renowned Harry Potter series. Though her first novel was rejected by a publisher, Rowling’s work was slowly recognized and accepted with her first novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1977. Soon after that in 2,000, the fourth installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was ranked as the fastest selling book in literary history.
Though Rowling’s subject material of sorcery, witchcraft, and good triumphing over evil are fresh, exciting, and appealing to the young mind, parents are suddenly thrilled and excited that in an age of digital mayhem and passive entertainment, their children are quickly consuming these mammoth sized volumes and still begging for more. The later film adaptations of her works served to draw even more avid fans to her work, making her the literary icon that we recognize today. It is interesting to note that the same children that grew up reading Rowling’s novels are part of the new generation that are not at all interested in collectibles nevermind collecting rare books.
While not every first edition in the Harry Potter series is exactly deemed as rare, the vast interest in the books has contributed to a surge in demand and appearances in worldwide bestseller lists. Today it is not difficult to locate a first edition copy of any one of the Harry Potter books, and it is not difficult to find a copy that was signed by the author as well. One would think that something that is so plentiful and common should be relatively inexpensive.  On the contrary, the opposite is true with some of Rowling’s works. In fact, a first American edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is being offered for sale for an unabashed $1500, and the more antiquated version of the same book, the British version, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which is also signed by Ms. Rowling, is priced by a dealer at an unflinching $45,000. It may be safe to say that those who are now “plunking down the change” so to speak, for these highly priced volumes, are the same “children” of last decade now grown to adulthood, who were first captivated and enraptured with Ms. Rowling’s works a scarce fifteen years ago or less.
Our Rare Book Sale Monitor which conducts statistical analysis of Rowling’s works on a quarterly basis exhibits a relatively steady to small appreciation during the most recent quarters. Looking ahead, however, some of the exuberant pricing for the high end Harry Potter books will eventually shift to more realistic asking prices. Granted a fine copy of the first book, first edition, first issue, signed is definitely rare, given that the total Bloomsbury printing consisted of just 500 copies most of which made their way to libraries. We expect Rowling’s works to remain much beloved and longed for, generating strong demand for some time. The problem is that there are just too many first editions available, and Rowling is still publishing and signing. Our belief is that a great deal of the higher priced collectibles will eventually drop in price as well in order to sell. As the author and the Little, Brown and Company are preparing to flood the bookstores with Rowling’s first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy at the end of next month, our recommendation to anyone holding a rare Harry Potter book strictly with the expectation of value appreciation is – sell now.

About the author

Partner, rare book dealer. Sekkes Consultants.

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