Books

JK Rowling Signed ‘Harry Potter’ Books Fail To Sell at Charity Auction

Silhouette of someone (supposed to be JK Rowling) over stacks of signed books.  Image: Alyssa Shotwell & Creative Commons.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JKRowlingsignature.svg

Despite being mask-off transphobic for the past two years (somehow, almost impressively, getting progressively worse) and praising people who are self-aware enough to call themselves fascists, JK Rowling’s legacy for the wider public has remained relatively untouched. However, a recent incident with some first-edition Harry Potter books up for auction feels like an indicator that her fall from grace is having far-reaching effects.

Sure, beyond some archived footage, she didn’t appear in HBO Max’s Return to Hogwarts specialand the Fantastic Beasts franchise is basically a sinking ship (although for many reasons), but Rowling’s influence is still pretty strong considering The Cursed Child play is still on Broadway, Barnes & Noble continues to expand their Harry Potter sections, and as recently as June 30, Warner Bros. reaffirmed they will continue to work with her in spite of her continued overt and deadly bigotry.

Despite this, interesting news came out of the world of collectibles and auction houses when a complete set of first-edition, signed set of Harry Potter novels failed to secure even the minimum bid of $119,500 at Christie’s. If this sounds like a lot (and it is), consider that this is the same auction house has been around since the late 1700s, the price is inflated a bit for handling costs, and this is a place known for prestige (and legal money laundering via questionable provenance).

With all that in mind, while the price sounds high to the average person, this price is on par with what it costs for a single valuable book, let alone a set. In fact, it’s low for the Potter series, as in December 2021, Heritage Auctions broke records when it sold a first edition of just the first novel for $471,000.

Excuses

Some ride-or-die Rowling fans (including those who still make almost exclusively Harry Potter content online) have tried to downplay the fact that this didn’t sell as a good thing because there’s a rumor that one to three of the novels had forged signatures. Christie’s has since updated to say that the auction replaced the fifth novel. Regardless of if whether this is true or a rumor, I doubt it affected the sale because it wasn’t a widely known discussion.

Others have tried to frame it as “oh, people didn’t know about the listing.” However, Rowling and many others shared the news. Because her Lumos Foundation—which says that “every single cent and penny, will go directly to helping children and their families”—was to receive a portion of the donated to the foundation, I’d be willing to bet the news of this auction listing probably traveled through communication channels of the wealthy.

Sure, this might have been just a blip, considering all the reasons I mentioned up above that we can tell Rowling’s transphobia has, upsettingly, not been a dealbreaker for many. However, barring any of the real-world events that might typically inflate the value of such a thing, these books might just not be seen as a worthwhile investment. Even those who haven’t completely cut Rowling off are aware that she’s lost some of her sheen—especially when people are parting with their own copies of the books left and right to donate the money to organizations that help aid trans people with everything from healthcare to housing.

(via Twitter, featured image: Alyssa Shotwell & Creative Commons.)

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