This Drawing Is Now the Priciest ‘Harry Potter’ Item Ever Sold

The piece has appreciated some eighteenfold since it was last sold in 2001.

Courtesy Sotheby's.

A watercolor for the cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), the first book in the smash hit series, sold for more than three times its estimate at Sotheby’s on Wednesday, fetching $1.9 million against a high estimate of $600,000. That makes it the priciest item related to the Potter phenomenon to come to auction to date.

The same drawing, by Thomas Taylor, sold at Sotheby’s London in 2001, at which time it fetched £85,750 (about $108,000 at today’s exchange rate) against a high estimate of £25,000 (about $31,000) to set what was then a record for any Potter-related material. The work has multiplied in value eighteen-fold in 23 years. 

The previous high for any item related to the series was $421,000, achieved at Heritage Auctions in Dallas in 2021 for an unsigned first edition of Philosopher’s Stone.

“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,” said Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, before the auction. “Instantly recognizable today, Taylor’s work serves as the visual blueprint for the boy wizard who has since inspired millions worldwide.”

An art handler holds up a watercolor drawing for the cover of the first Harry Potter book

Thomas Taylor, Illustration for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The drawing features Potter wearing his trademark striped scarf, with the trademark lightning bolt scar on his forehead, as he stands at train platform 9¾, where the Hogwarts Express has pulled in, billowing purple smoke into the upper part of the sheet.

“It is exciting to see the painting that marks the very start of my career, decades later and as bright as ever!” said Thomas ahead of the sale. “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. As I write and illustrate my own stories today, I am proud to look back on such magical beginnings.”

The Potter drawing came from the collection of oral surgeon Rodney P. Swantko, who died in 2022. 

A manuscript with handwritten text

An autograph manuscript for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

His holdings also included items from Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allan Poe. The sale achieved a $6 million result against a $5.8 million high estimate (totals include the house’s fees; estimates do not). A copy of Doyle’s The Sign of Four achieved $960,000, breaking the record for any autograph manuscript by the author.

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