The Original Illustration For the First ‘Harry Potter’ Book Just Sold For a Record-Breaking HK$14.8 Million
The rare watercolour has taken the title of the most valuable ‘Harry Potter’ item ever sold at auction.
BY Rachel Cormack  |  July 3, 2024
2 Minute Read

Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

Pottermania just reached lofty new heights.

The original illustration for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hammered down for a record US$1.9 million (HK$14.8 million) at a Sotheby’s auction on Wednesday, following a fierce, 10-minute battle between four bidders.

The iconic watercolour, penned by English illustrator Thomas Taylor in 1997, surpassed the pre-sale estimate of between US$400,000 and US$600,000 (HK$3.1 million and HK$4.6 million), becoming the most valuable Harry Potter item ever sold at auction. The previous record was held by an unsigned first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which realised US$421,000 (HK$3.2 million) at Heritage Auctions in Dallas in 2021.

Taylor was the first artist to depict Harry Potter. At just 23 years old, the Brit was enlisted by UK publisher Bloomsbury to illustrate the boy wizard. His work, featured on the covers of the first edition of the novel published in 1997, established the “universal image” of the now-famous character with his trademark lighting-bolt scar, round glasses, and dark hair.

Taylor used concentrated watercolours and outlined with a black Karisma pencil.
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

“It is hard to convey the impact of this illustration by Thomas Taylor, created in 1997, for the then-unknown novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, said in a statement. “Instantly recognisable today, Taylor’s work serves as the visual blueprint for the boy wizard who has since inspired millions worldwide.”

The watercolour was first offered at auction via Sotheby’s London in 2001, eclipsing initial estimates of between £20,000 and £25,000 (HK$198,200 and HK$247,750) to achieve a then-record £85,750 (HK$849,670). More than 20 years later, the work has made history again.

“It is exciting to see the painting that marks the very start of my career, decades later and as bright as ever,” adds Taylor. “It takes me back to the experience of reading Harry Potter for the first time—one of the first people in the world to do so—and the process of creating what is now an iconic image.”

It is not uncommon for Potter-related items to sell for fantastical sums. The British first edition, for example, ranks as an exceptionally rare and incredibly valuable modern book. Only 500 copies were printed, 300 of which went to libraries, meaning the tome routinely breaks records. Even proofs with typos are considered highly collectible, as is memorabilia from the subsequent films. Pottermania is no joke, folks.