The original illustration for the first edition of J.K. Rowling’s book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” sold for a record-breaking $1.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, following a ten-minute battle between four bidders. It was expected to sell for up to $600,000, the highest presale value on a Harry Potter-related memorabilia. 

The watercolor upper cover of the book was created by children’s book author and illustrator Thomas Taylor in 1997, when he was only 23. It features the iconic image of the titular character with his unmistakable round spectacles, dark brown hair, and lightning bolt scar on the forehead, ready to board the Hogwarts Express train bound for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

According to Sotheby’s, Taylor used Rowling’s description of the boy wizard and became the first person to give him a “public face, establishing the way the world would see Harry Potter.” The original cover for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” comes in a single sheet of watercolor paper, sized 401 x 282 mm, and signed and dated “Thomas Taylor 1997” on the verso. It is also captioned and signed again on an accompanying cover sheet with “faintest color variation to edges, tape remnants to edges or verso, not affecting image.”

Taylor’s illustration was used on several translated versions of the book but not in U.S. edition. It was first put up for auction via Sotheby’s London in 2001 and carried a presale estimate between $25,300 and $31,600, and sold for a then-record of $108,500. Taylor on his Instagram says he is amazed to see his illustration on “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” resurface after over a decade and still look as bright as when he first drew it. 

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Images courtesy of Sotheby’s