One of the rarest Harry Potter books ever published could sell for thousands of pounds at auction – but it could easily have gone up in flames in a Glasgow tenement fire.
The signed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone book, won by Carina Haouchine when she was a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 2012, is one of just 15 copies of a competition prize edition.
They were published to mark the 15th anniversary of the Potter series and were signed and dedicated by author JK Rowling but were never released for sale.
However, the book was almost destroyed in a Glasgow fire which ripped through Carina’s tenement building at the beginning of the year.
It is now set to go under the hammer in Hansons Auctioneers’ Library Auction on September 5 with an estimate of £8,000-£12,000.
Carina has explained how she feels lucky to still have it at all.
Carina, 26, a documentary film-maker from Scotland, said: “The book was kept hidden away in my childhood bedroom and then in the storage cupboard of my tenement flat in Glasgow. The tenement actually experienced a tragic fire at the beginning of the year. Thankfully nobody was injured but it is now uninhabitable. I’m very grateful the book survived!
“The ground floor of the building and stairwell were badly damaged but my flat, which was on the second floor, wasn’t affected – including the cupboard where the book was stored.”
Carina won the book in a competition organized by publisher Bloomsbury in 2012, seeking to find the UK’s biggest Harry Potter fan.
School pupils were encouraged to write a letter explaining why they loved the Potter series.
The winner received one of the exclusive books and a family holiday to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort in the United States while 14 runners-up received one of the books.
Carina spent time over the summer holidays creating her colourful entry which included a watercolour portrait on an envelope depicting the three main characters – Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
She also made a hand-carved wand bearing a tag, ‘Douglas Fir with a phoenix feather core’.
Her entry letter stated: “I’ve grown up with Harry Potter. It was the first thing I was ever passionate about, and I always will be!”
Carina said: “I grew up with my mum reading me the Harry Potter books and the release of the film series sparked my passion for film.
“I am now a filmmaker and I’ve no doubt that the Harry Potter world played a part in that. At the time of the competition, it was the passion of my little brothers that kept it alive in me. In recent years it has become less important to me but it still makes me nostalgic to look back on it.
“I found out about the competition in a magazine. I really wanted to win the first prize of a family trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, especially as my little brothers were big Potter fans.
“I was very interested in production design in film and this inspired me to carve the wand, create a personalised chocolate frog card and hand-paint the envelope.
“I was ecstatic when I won. It felt amazing to be one of only 15 people chosen. But I have to admit I was also the littlest bit frustrated that I was a runner-up and had just missed out on the first-prize holiday!
“I am selling now because I recently got engaged to my girlfriend so the money from the sale would be very helpful to put towards our wedding and future.”
Jim Spencer, head of Hansons’ Library Auction, said: “This is technically the rarest edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Only 15 copies were produced and they were never offered for sale. It’s not recorded in the invaluable JK Rowling bibliography by Philip W Errington, which proves how scarce it is.
“In fact, until last year, the public had no idea what this book even looked like because there was no visual record of its existence online. None of the competition winners had shared images, there was really only a brief record of the competition itself.
“That changed last year when Hansons Auctioneers sold the first known copy of one of these for Chloe Esslemont, who was also a runner-up in the Bloomsbury competition. That was the only known copy to have surfaced, let alone be offered for sale. It achieved £8,000.
“All of this emphasises the importance of this book and what a truly magical opportunity is in store for all Potterheads. The market is flooded with convincing forgeries of Rowling’s signature, so this is a golden opportunity to buy a signed book with absolute confidence in its authenticity.”
He continued: “Adding to the appeal of the book, we have the original competition entry, a really charming portrait of the three main characters, and you’ve got to love the hand-carved wand. I catalogue books and manuscripts going right back to the medieval period, so I’m always conscious of posterity and how things will be perceived in the future. I predict that 100 years from now, this book, and the fan art that accompanies it, will be displayed in a museum.
“Not only did it survive the fire, it is an immaculate find. It comes with its original padded envelope from Bloomsbury and is in fine, unread condition.” The Harry Potter book will be offered in Hansons Auctioneers’ Library Auction at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, on September 5, 2023. To find out more, email email@example.com.