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False alarm: no valuable magic in “1 Wand” typo in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The “1 Wand” error in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Earlier this month there was a news story concerning copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that were judged to be valuable if they contained a particular wand-related error. The story originated from a British auction company, who have a Harry Potter sale coming up in November, and it was picked up by a large number of media outlets around the world, including The Independent.

The reports said a first edition of the Philosopher’s Stone containing this error was expected to sell for as much as £26,000 at auction.

Now, exciting though this story is, it is misleading.

True first editions of the novel – which are as scarce as hens’ teeth – do indeed contain the typo but the mistake also appears in later printings. That means a fair number of copies containing the mistake are in circulation. A week ago AbeBooks started receiving messages from people who had a copy with the typo and suddenly thought they had a valuable book on their hands. It was the same situation for London rare bookseller Peter Harrington, who also started to receive emails from hopeful Harry Potter fans. Search for “Harry Potter wand typo” on Twitter and you will see at least nine people who have copies of the book with the error.

This whole thing sounded fishy to me, so I contacted Peter Harrington to double-check and they were kind enough to provide this statement:

Several items in the press have recently suggested that a typo found on p. 53 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone renders a copy extremely rare and valuable.

The repetition of ‘1 wand’ on the list of Harry’s required equipment for Hogwarts does indeed appear in true first editions, but in fact also appeared in later printings and does not, on its own, mean that the book is rare or valuable. The typo only confirms the rarity of the book if it is a first edition, first printing and the following criteria are also fulfilled:

  1. The publisher must be listed as Bloomsbury at the bottom of the title page.
  2. The latest date listed in the copyright information must be 1997.
  3. The print line on the copyright page must read “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1”, ten down to one, exactly. The lowest figure in the print line indicates the printing. (For instance, if your copy has “20 19 18 17”, it’s a less valuable seventeenth printing.)
  4. The book must be printed in the UK, not Canada, Australia or anywhere else.

So there you go – if you have the typo, Bloomsbury, 1997, 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1, and it’s printed in the UK then you have a rather valuable book. Peter Harrington has an excellent blog post on the Philosopher’s Stone first edition. You can also use AbeBooks’ Harry Potter Collecting Guide for further information.

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