I have been collecting Harry Potter books for roughly 10 years. When I first started, I did not know enough to know the difference between a first edition, first print, trade edition, book club edition, or state. All I noticed at first was that some of the books that looked similar to ones I owned sold for very high prices (upwards of $2000), and I was not quite sure as to why the books I was once so proud weren’t considered as valuable as the the high sellers.
For starters, I had a shelf full of Harry Potter book club editions (BCEs). In my naivete, I did not recognize the difference when I purchased those first BCEs and thought that because it was Harry Potter it had value.
By now, most everyone who are familiar with the US Harry Potter books have seen these BCEs stroll across eBay, usually with titles like “1st print Sorcerer’s Stone–RARE–LQQK” with a nice price point ($100-200 for Buy It Now) and I know a few (like myself) who have been duped into buying that book thinking it was indeed a true first print Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at a smoking hot deal.
So, why was I, and others so easily fooled by these BC editions? For starters, they look very similar to the first print trade edition (the trade editions are the ones purchased at bookstores).
At first blush, this book looks like the first print trade, which can sell for upwards of $1000. However, closer examination shows that this book is indeed a BCE–look at the dust cover. The first print trades (the valuable books) have RAISED, gilt lettering. This book’s lettering on the Jacket is flat and matte. That alone should indicate that it’s a BCE of this great book.
However, there are other tell-tale signs. On the trade books, there is a price on the inside front top right corner ($16.95 for first prints). This price is missing altogether from the BC. Additionally, the BCE dustcover carries the common Publisher’s Weekly quote found on the back, while the highly sought after first print trade has the Guardian as opposed to the Published Weekly (some first prints do have the publisher’s weekly quote, but this jacket is not as highly sought after–more on that in another post).
Also, the boards of the BCE books are quite different. The first print trade boards have a diamond embossed pattern and red cloth on the spine. There are several different BCEs of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–some have all black boards, and some have all red boards. The most common, at least from what I’ve seen, are the black boards.
There are also other giveaways, like the BCEs are generally a different size than the trades (usually smaller) and the paper quality (in the US versions) isn’t as good.
Personally, I don’t think the majority of the Sorcerer’s Stone BCEs hold any real collecting value., and I would never buy nor sell one. This facet, mostly, holds true for collecting other books as well, as trades have always been the most sought after (due to lower print runs, scarcity, and the overall public want to have a ‘true’ first print of a favorite book). Hardened book just collectors do not normally give BCEs of any book much attention (there are exceptions though) and want only the best of the best–the first print trade, and they’ll pay good money for them. In the rare instance a BCE has collecting value, the first print trade is still always worth more.
However, as Harry Potter prices continue to sore and the first print trade Sorcerer’s Stone is out of some people’s price range, a less expensive BCE of this same book might do just fine. I have seen Sorcerer’s Stone BCEs sell for reasonably high amounts on eBay ($150), but I am unsure if these books sold because the BCEs now have some value in the collecting world or if the buyer thinks they are purchasing a 'real’ first print of this book. Honestly, I think it’s more the buyer not knowing exactly what is being purchased.
If you decide to purchase a Sorcerer’s Stone BCE, that’s just fine–they’re lovely books and a wonderful part of the Harry Potter publishing history. But, pay attention to these 2 things: 1) do not overpay–these books can be found for around $10 at local used bookstores as well as on eBay (however, at the time of writing, I have seen them more commonly priced around $40, which I think is too high) and 2) know what you’re buying and be okay with it. Beware though, that if you’re buying a Sorcerer’s Stone BCE as an investment (especially short-term), you’re probably putting your money in the wrong place.
For more information about the valuable 1st Edition, 1st Print Sorcerer's Stone, go HERE or watch my YouTube Video.