Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published back in 1997, and the original hardback edition was limited to only 500 copies (which almost half of them went to public libraries in the United Kingdom). These copies, or at least the few that remain, are highly desired by collectors who want to have a piece of the phenomenon. It is not easy to find a copy in good condition, especially since 24 years have passed since its publication. It is believed that most of the copies are lost or were destroyed in the hands of excited children who enjoyed the reading so much (and that’s what books are for!). However, the copies that did not fall into the hands of mischievous kids are sold for high prices in auction houses.
Recently, Jeremy Padawer not only acquired one of the scarce first editions (first printings!) of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but he also broke a record: buying the most expensive copy of the book ever for $193.000. We had the opportunity to talk to him about his experience as a collector, his recent acquisition and more.
What was your first contact with Harry Potter?
In 2000, my now wife and I started dating. We read the Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire together. In retrospect, I’m not sure whether I was trying to impress her or whether I just had additional time on my hands – but, regardless of why, I absolutely fell in love with the book series at the same time I fell in love with my wife. That same year, I interviewed for the Harry Potter brand manager job at Mattel. While I did not get that particular job, I did impress some people on Hot Wheels, and started my career at Mattel shortly thereafter!
For the last 20 years, I have gone from brand manager, to executive, to top executive, to struggling entrepreneur, to successful entrepreneur. I want to strongly encourage you to work hard, follow your passions, balance your life out with the things that you love – hobbies, collections, people – and live a life at least following the beat of your own drummer. There has never been a time in our history that allows for that more than the year 2020.
Why this particular book?
The original hardback Harry Potter book was limited to 500 copies, with 300 going to UK libraries and 200 mostly to young readers. The books that were provided to libraries were stamped, written in, read, and most are in bad to terrible condition. And, this is as it should be! These books were meant to be read. Thank goodness they were. The books sold to individuals were also read and the state of their condition is varied.
I did not set out to own the best conditioned first edition hardback Harry Potter book I’ve ever seen on the market. I’ve watched this book for several years. In 2017, it set a world record on Heritage Auctions and a world record $83,000 paid for any modern work published in the last 50 years. My objective wasn’t to own that book. But, when I came across it, I couldn’t deny how much it meant to me, how rare it was, and my emotional and transactional self jumped in whole-heartedly. $193,000 is a lot of money. I do not take it lightly. I do believe we all should embrace our passions and diversify our investment portfolio. This did both for me.
Collectibles are another way to diversify investment portfolios… And, unlike most forms of investing, you can lean into areas that you love – categories (like first edition, first print books), brands (like Harry Potter). But, before you do, put in the hours of study!
You were a collector for many years, why Harry Potter now?
1) I love content, pop culture, and the impact it has on social and consumer behavior.
2) I study, create and invest in collectible systems so I feel like I have a special insight into why certain brands gain momentum on the secondary market at specific times.
3) The Harry Potter franchise was, and is, groundbreaking. The children / readers of that franchise who connected with Harry Potter from their earliest days are now 25-35 years old. It’s interesting what happens to a brand after around 20 years in existence. Either the rare items start rapidly increasing in value or they do not. In the case of Harry Potter, I watched for several years as prices started escalating on the rarest items. This is a result of the 25-35 year olds investing — now with some money, a desire to express themselves through their investments, and a love for the Harry Potter brand. That’s when I like to jump in… but only if it’s something I really understand or in this case, love.
4) My mission is to inspire people both professionally and personally to align closer to their passions. Over the last year, I have connected with around 125,000 people who follow me on social media primarily because of that.
5) I invest in brands that I love, that I understand and that I believe will provide a positive return when my days of ownership are over. And, let me be clear about that – I buy and hold the things I love. This collection will be with me until I’m much older. At some point, I will sell so as not to burden my children with the things I love, but to offer them the opportunity to surround themselves with the things that they love. My hope is that the next caretaker of this book holds it for a lifetime.
My message in general – In 2020 there are more paths that lead to fulfillment than ever before both professionally and in managing a diversified investment portfolio. That’s my passion. So, when you read this, just note the context… it’s irrational to spend $193,000 on a book without the context!
This is my favorite book series of all time. I didn’t purchase this book to hold the record for long. I really do believe that there is a very special collectability of this particular first edition, first print. I feel happy to own the book. And, I’m not shy about spreading the joy of collecting things you love as part of your investing in life. Everything doesn’t have to be big corporate stocks or real estate. Life is about diversification of experiences… diversification of investments… and inclusion of ideas.
Are you planning to keep collecting more Harry Potter stuff? Anything in mind?
I purchased several of the original Wizards of the Coast base booster boxes (of the trading card game). I also bought several of the 4 extensions of that game… Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Quidditch Cup, Adventures at Hogwarts… I am a big fan of the card series, and of trading card games in general. I am contemplating purchasing the other books in the series first edition, first print.
Is this your first book in your collection? Are you thinking about going on this direction?
It is! I have made a few other smaller first edition, first print purchases outside of Harry Potter that I’ll communicate to others over time.
Any other franchise you will do some research on to add to your collection?
I’ve collected high grade, vintage Pokémon for quite some time. After all, I’ve made their toys for 15 years off and on!! In general, I collect across a broad spectrum of things from cards, to art, to toys… but almost always, things that I understand, that reflect my personality, that I hold dear, and that I can identify as a positive return on my investment over time. Not every collectible is an investment, but it is true that in life every dollar you spend has opportunity cost. It should at least be one factor in how you spend money.