The ol' £1600+ switcheroo
If your childhood copies of Harry Potter are still kicking around, you may want to hang onto them. Recently, it was revealed that a first edition signed copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was going for an eye-watering £1675 at Hatchards in London…that is, until it was stolen.
In one of the strangest cases of the year, Italian bookseller Rudolf Schonegger was charged with stealing a rare copy of the children’s book from Hatchards. He was spotted on CCTV footage slipping behind the till and swapping out the first edition book for another, Late Call by Angus Wilson, and shop staff didn’t notice until it was too late.
The book, which had a sticker proudly declaring its astronomical value, was one of the most important pieces in the shop. Hatchards manager Helen Mills told The Evening Standard, ‘I went to the till on the ground floor and started serving customers. A colleague passed by in a quieter moment when the queue had gone down and said, ‘Oh, have you sold the Harry Potter?’’
She continued, ‘All the staff know about [the first edition of Harry Potter] – it would have been a big thing for us to have sold it. It is rare for it to be signed by JK Rowling because she doesn’t sign too many. I turned around because we kept it behind the till and it wasn’t there and what it had been was another book by Angus Wilson called Late Call.’
Apparently, Rudolf hadn’t exactly been subtle about his heist. Before the book went missing, he had been asking Hatchards staff about it. It also turns out he had a history of sticky fingers, as he had also stolen a £700 edition of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway as well as a £150 of William Golding’s Pincher Martin. (The latter was sold onto a London bookseller for just £60.)
There’s a lot of money to be had selling rare Harry Potter books, especially if you have a signed first edition on your hands. Online book retailers AbeBooks revealed that a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone went for as much as £26,700 in 2005 – though it was a rare handwritten manuscript of Harry Potter spin-off The Tales of Beedle and the Bard that garnered a shocking £1.95 million at a Sotheby’s auction.