COLLECTING GUIDE Harry Potter memorabilia
20 years on from the release of the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone memorabilia connected to the boy wizard is fetching magical prices,
writes Ivan Macquisten
As generations Y and Z grow up, one phenomenon is certain – Harry Potter collectables, now big, are only set to get bigger as the nostalgia among Millennials kicks in. Rare first editions tend to grab most of the headlines, but thanks to the equally phenomenal film franchise, posters, costumes, props, games and other promotional material provide a rich seam to mine for fans and investors alike.
FILM RIGHTS Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film in the eight-movie series, was released on November 14, 2001, catapulting a 12-year-old Daniel Ratcliffe into superstardom as the pre-teen icon of countless millions (even billions), accompanied by Rupert Grint (then 13) and Emma Watson (then 11).
Above A replica of Hogwarts Castle which encloses the ride Hogwarts Express at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando
Below right Harry Potter main cast-signed 8 x 10in promo photo sold for $1,000 in April 2020. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions HA.com
Released in the United States under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the commercial potential of JK Rowling’s wizard world was already well established, but would go on to generate billions of dollars as it was repurposed to cash in on everything from toys to rucksacks, keyrings to candles and now even face masks.
Licensing rights also extend to activities – undoubtedly the best ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood (I’ve been on it) is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which takes a journey through the fictitious classrooms before soaring over Hogwarts Castle on a digital broomstick.
WORLDWIDE FRANCHISE A quick check on eBay lists nearly 67,000 derivative Harry Potter Hogwarts products for sale – the Lego sets alone are a rich source of income. In 2016, the entire Harry Potter franchise was estimated at $25bn, just under a third of that coming from box office receipts.
While commercial returns are one thing, when it comes to collecting, what true fans look for – beyond rare and signed editions of the books – are exactly the same thing collectors in any field of rock, pop or entertainment memorabilia want. Namely, autographs, and signed photographs, posters and programmes. As well as costumes and production artwork, there is material from film premieres, or film sets and, of course, top props like a pair of Harry Potter spectacles or wands used on screen. All need to provide a provenance showing the original ownership, outside the production, was sanctioned by the rights holders. This ensures that title has passed properly.
TOP SEVEN The most sought after is something ultra-rare and as close to the star actors as possible – it’s really the same idea as medieval pilgrims looking for saints’ relics.
Recent sales show that prices for the rarest items can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, but so much material exists that even those on modest budgets will be able to afford something.
In January 2020, the online auction platform Barnebys featured the seven most expensive Harry Potter collectors’ items, which ranged from Harry Potter’s acceptance letter for Hogwarts (£7,000, sold by the Prop Store in 2016); to a pair of screen-worn Harry Potter spectacles featured in the first film ($20,000, sold by California’s Julien’s Auction in 2015); ending with one of seven manuscript copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the Potter spin-off, individually handwritten and illustrated by the author (which sold for £368,750 at Sotheby’s in 2016).
48 ANTIQUE COLLECTING