How to tell if a Harry Potter book is a first edition?

There are only 500 first edition copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but do you have one of them?

Following on from the news that one lucky fan in Britain got her hands on three first edition copies of “Harry Potter” for as little as £3 ($4.20). It has brought up the question about first editions again.

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” only had 500 first edition copies made and they may be worth hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars. But just how do you know if you’ve got your hands on one of those special editions?

Even if you didn’t want to sell now, you may want to know for the future. You’ll want to make sure your children or your future grandchildren are aware of the important novels. Telling a first edition from a later edition is very easy with the “Philosopher’s Stone,” but it can get a little trickier moving forward.

Look for the error on page 53

It turned out that the original copy of the first “Harry Potter” novel had an error in Harry’s list of items to take to Hogwarts. The list told him to take one wand twice. Well, he certainly only picked up one wand, so this was obviously a misprint. Later copies of the novel corrected the error.

If you’re getting a British edition of the book, you’ll also find FIRST EDITION printed on the book. In the U.S. editions, it’s all about a string of numbers. In the first editions, you’ll see:

(Photo by Christie’s/Getty Images)

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0/0

Followed by the date that the copy was published. The 0/0 (or 1/1 in Britain) denotes the first edition. This is first edition/first printing.

The date will also give you an idea. The “Philosopher’s Stone” was originally printed in 1997. In the U.S. it was called the “Sorcerer’s Stone,” so look out for that name for first edition versions. Of course, the later novels will have different dates, based on when they were originally published. The number sequence will still be the same.

You may also see FIRST STATE mentioned, which involves the jacket or dust of the novel.

“Harry Potter” was originally under the Bloomsbury publisher, and that name will appear in the first editions.

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First editions worth more than $60,000

One copy of the first novel sold for more than $60,000, but this is more the exception than the norm. Other first editions are selling for as little as $10. It’s not just about being a first edition. The novel needs to be kept in a pristine condition to sell well.

Those that have tattered edges or have been well-read won’t sell for much. The novel that had sold for more than $60,000 was bought and kept by one collector. The colors on the front page were still so bright, it was as if it had only just been created.

Do you think you may have a first edition? If so would you sell it or keep it? Are you one who just wants to enjoy the “Harry Potter?” Share your thoughts in the comments below.