After using it to teach his children English, a father retired his Harry Potter book to its shelf for 21 years.
But he was stunned to find he’d stashed a fortune – after learning it was a ‘seriously scarce’ first edition which could sell for £50,000.
The hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – of which only 500 were printed in 1997 – is a ‘holy grail’ for collectors.
The seller, a retired British expat who asked not to be named, bought the book to help his children learn English after moving to Luxembourg.
He plans to pay off his daughter’s student loan after the sale.
The hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – of which only 500 were printed in 1997 – is a ‘holy grail’ for collectors (file photo)
It will go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers on October 13 with an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000 – but could fetch £50,000 due to its good condition.
The seller said: ‘I bought the book for my children around 18 months after it was first published.
‘If I remember correctly, I bought it by mail order from Barnes & Noble so I am guessing they had it in their warehouse for a while.’
He added: ‘I needed English books to read to my three children at bedtime as I was on a mission to teach them my native language from an early age.
‘Their mother is Luxembourgish and they were going to state schools here in Luxembourg, so I needed to make a bit of an effort.
‘It’s just been sitting on a shelf ever since with the rest of the Harry Potter books, with no special care.
‘It’s actually been read only once with the date recorded in the back of the book.
‘One of the children stuck Harry Potter pictures in the book when the first film came out.
‘A couple of months ago when JK Rowling bounced into the main news I decided to re-read the Potter series.
‘I knew there had been a few first editions sold recently and Hansons was featured on the BBC website so, just to be safe, I checked the criteria.
‘I was a big fan of the Potter books when I first read them.
‘There are a lot of ethical and human behaviour discussion points in the books and I had a lot of respect for JK Rowling for producing such a polished and nuanced body of work.
‘It gave me the opportunity to explain many interesting situations to my kids, and helped them all on the road to fluency in English.
‘I sent it to Hansons in a tea towel as a little nod to the Hogwarts house-elves, especially Winky and Dobby.’
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, elves wore a uniform made out of a tea towel stamped with the Hogwarts crest.
The seller said: ‘I sent it to Hansons in a tea towel as a little nod to the Hogwarts house-elves, especially Winky and Dobby.’ (Dobby, pictured)
The seller added: ‘I did not think mine would be valuable as it was certainly not purchased when first published.
‘I was very surprised and shocked to see that it did in fact tick all the boxes, but still could not quite believe it until I checked with Hansons.
‘I have decided to sell now as I would like to pay off my daughter’s student loan for her, which will give her a good credit history and help her to apply for a mortgage.’
There are various ways to identify the first issue of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published by Bloomsbury in 1997, with one clue being the duplication of the phrase ‘1 wand’ on page 53.
Other telltale signs include the word ‘philosopher’ having the wrong spelling on the back cover and the author’s name appearing as Joanne Rowling on the inside page
However, according to auctioneers, the best indicator is the issue number must read: ’10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1′.
Hansons books expert Jim Spencer said: ‘True first issues are seriously scarce. Only 500 were printed, 300 of which were sent to schools and libraries.
‘This is extra rare because it’s one of the remaining 200 and yet this is my fourth one in just over a year.
‘It’s a cliched phrase, but they really are the holy grail for collectors.
‘I’d dreamed of finding one for years before my first magical discovery in Staffordshire.
‘This new copy deserves to do really well because it’s in astonishingly good condition. I would love to see it make £50,000.’
The book paved the way to Harry Potter mania across the world with six sequels, 500 million copies sold and hit movie adaptations starring Daniel Radcliffe.