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Collecting Basics     Research, Books, and Signed Items
J.K. Rowling has built a wonderful universe for us to enjoy.  For many of us, that enjoyment includes collecting books or movie memorabilia for ourselves and/or our children.  Fortunately, there are many great opportunities to enjoy collecting HP items, no matter what your budget is.  Unfortunately, there are hundreds of sellers dealing in fraudulent items.  It is very important to arm yourselves with knowledge before you spend your money! 


Table Of Contents

     Collecting on a Budget 

Research  (Your Own Personal Patronus)

Your best defense against those who would sell you misrepresented or fraudulent items is research.  Before you spend your hard-earned wages, please take a few moments to research your purchase.  The information contained on this page should help you.  However, there are additional steps you can take to protect yourself.

First, take a moment to know your topic.  If you are preparing to purchase a book, visit the publishers' sites (www.bloomsbury.com and www.scholastic.com), peruse through the book listings on www.abebooks.com and/or look up the specific book you are looking for on www.addall.com for RETAIL pricing information.  WHOLESALE pricing may be determined by watching the winning bids in online auctions such as those found on www.eBay.com .   If the item you are looking at is priced significantly UNDER market prices, be very careful.  Bargains do exist, but they are far outnumbered by fraudulent deals. 

If you are preparing to purchase a signed book, poster, or other item, by all means check out good examples of the signatures in which you are interested.    Use only DOCUMENTED, or STUDIO-PROVIDED signatures for comparison.  Refer to our section on Signatures for additional tips on purchasing signed books and movie items.  Check out our I Would Not Buy That! section of questionable signatures. There are also some great examples of cast signatures on HP4U's Autograph Page and some fan sites, including www.danradcliffe.com , have examples of the stars’ signatures on their site. 

Second, consider any provenance the seller offers.  Provenance includes any items which offer proof that the item you are purchasing is what the seller claims it to be.  Examples include the golden ticket which was issued at U.K. Goblet of Fire signings, tickets, wristbands, or flyers from events where J.K. Rowling signed books, and studio passes or photos which explain how cast-signed items were obtained.  Sometimes, the seller will offer copies of the passes, etc, preferring to keep the original for their own collection.  This would not necessarily negate a sale for me, but such items should not bring top dollar and make certain the seller is not selling vast quantities of "signed" items, using the same copies over and over again. 

Next, check out your seller and their return policy.  If you are using an Amazon used book seller or an Abebooks seller, check out the ratings provided by previous customers. If you are using a bidding site, make certain you carefully check customer feedback.  Look for quality of the feedback and who provided the feedback.  There are ways for unscrupulous sellers to build up good feedback.  It can be purchased (“Chocolate Chip cookie recipe PLUS great feedback!”), or provided by buyers who are not as educated as you are and do not yet know they have been taken.  Watch a few auctions to make certain you want to deal with your potential seller.  Be very wary of sellers who will not provide photos of all signatures (this is a common practice for some, but against eBay policy) or who run auctions were buyer IDs are hidden.  Ask any and all relevant questions of the seller.  They should respond courteously and provide complete answers.  If they don’t, go elsewhere to make your purchase. 

If the seller offers a COA or guarantee, make sure you are clear on what the seller offers.  Is the signature guaranteed?  If so, for how long?  Is a refund offered?  What do you have to do to prove that the signature is not authentic?  Does the COA include the seller’s detailed contact information?

Finally, before you buy, seek a knowledgeable opinion on the book and/or signature.

Once you make a purchase, be certain to include specific instructions for the seller when he/she is shipping your item.  In our opinion, ALL collectibles should be carefully wrapped, padded, and shipped in a BOX.  Many sellers try to save money on the packing materials.  Therefore, you must be specific and request a box for your purchase.  Some sellers think nothing of shipping a valuable book (or other item) across the ocean in nothing more than a padded bag.  Treasures shipped in this manner rarely make it to their destination undamaged.

Finally, make absolutely certain that you pay using a method which provides some protection.  For instance, a credit card or PayPal-type electronic transfer service provide limited   protection.  Do NOT send a check unless absolutely necessary and never initiate a direct wire transfer unless you trust your seller 110%.  If you feel that you have not received what you thought you had purchased, pursue a refund immediately.  An honest seller should work courteously with you until the matter is remedied.  If the seller becomes defensive or abusive, a red flag should go up.  Send a few polite emails and give the seller time to respond.  Then promptly go to your credit card company, bidding site, and/or electronic transfer service for help.  Remember that there are usually legal methods for obtaining a refund.  However, you must act timely in order to recover your payment!


Books (Rule!)

Personally, Harry Potter books are my favorite item to collect.  What I like about the books is that their place in history is assured and they are fun and easy to collect once you know the rules.  They also make great gifts for children or fellow fans.  Books can also have a great individual history and be part of Harry's history.  Those are my favorites.  For example, I purchased a signed UK "Goblet of Fire" from a member of the train crew which served on "The Hogwarts Express Book Tour" when "Goblet" was released. It came with lots of wonderful items, including private photos from the tour. It's one of my favorite-ever finds.

Sources for books include but are not limited to estate auctions, flea markets, www.ebay.com, www.amazon.com (used books), www.amazon.co.uk, and independent sellers (which may be located through great listing/search services such as www.abebooks.com and www.addall.com).  Our Library has a list of sellers we recommend for their trustworthiness.  In this section, you will find some guidelines for successfully choosing a truly collectible book.

The book’s PRINT NUMBER is the most valuable key for identifying a collectible book.  Everyone who is thinking about collecting books should know how to interpret this number.  It is found at the bottom of the publisher’s page, which located just before the title page in most books.  The first set of numbers in the line indicate the print number for that particular book, which is indicated by the lowest number in the set.  (Please note that the numbers need not be exactly in descending order.)  The second set of numbers indicates what year the book was published, once again indicated by the lowest number in the set.  Therefore, the number line

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1     0/0 01 02 03

indicates a FIRST PRINTING printed in 2000.  (This would be found in a First Edition/First Printing U.S. Goblet of Fire, for example.)  The U.K. editions feature only the first part of the number line. Also, starting with Goblet of Fire in 2001, U.K. books use the term “FIRST EDITION” on the publisher’s page to denote 1/1 copies. The number line is still used in reprints.

There is also a condition known as a state, whereby something about the book or dust jacket was changed during a print run.  In order to be a TRUE FIRST EDITION, a book must be FIRST EDITION/FIRST PRINTING and (if applicable) FIRST STATE. 

Many sellers misstate information in their listings or omit certain information, thus artificially inflating the value of their book.   Generally, we do not believe this is intentional.  Sellers who sell many different sets of books don't always have specific knowledge of the Harry Potter books, and may make honest mistakes. If you have any questions about what a listing is actually saying, please don't hesitate to contact us for help.


The U.S. Trade Editions

One of the easiest sets to collect are the U.S. trade editions.  By “trade edition”, I mean those books which were meant for mass distribution in the U.S. I am also speaking of books which include the “First Edition” denotation on the publisher’s page (the page with all the printing information and numbers). 

First, let’s discuss the hardback books.  The first thing you should know about the U.S. books is that as of this point in time they ALL say “First Edition” on the publisher’s (or copyright) page facing the title page.  Additionally, the U.S. printed more books in each run than did the U.K.  Therefore, just about the only editions with any financial value are first printings and signed editions.  (The exception to this is the Sorcerer’s Stone, which had a small initial print run of 30,000.  First printings are worth from $500 to $2,500, and early printings of this book do have some value (starting at about $50).)

The really nice thing about the U.S. editions, is that you can collect a fine set of books which includes an early print of The Sorcerer’s Stone and 1/1 copies of all the other books for about $350, if you shop carefully. Although their value should increase, they will probably never be tremendously valuable.  There were simply too many printed.  However, they are affordable and make a wonderful gift for yourself or a special Harry Potter fan. You can own or give a piece of literary history without making a huge investment.

Please take a moment to note that any U.S. hardback Harry Potter book which has solid boards with NO diamond imprint (“boards” are composed of the front and back hard covers and spine) is a BOOK CLUB COPY – and nowhere near as valuable as those books with the appropriate two-color, diamond pattern boards.  Similarly, any U.S. dust jacket which does NOT have raised foil covering the "Harry Potter" section of the book title belongs to a BOOK CLUB book.

The Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were the only U.S. editions to have multiple states in the first printing.  The Sorcerer's Stone has TWO states of the 1/1.  The very first books printed had a review from a British publication, “The Guardian”, on the back of the dust jacket.  Although there are other differences, this quote alone will distinguish the first state.  The second state has a review from an American publication, “The Gazette”.  The book behind either of these dust jackets would NOT have the number 1 on its spine.  If it does have the number 1 present, someone has put a newer book inside and older dust jacket.  The first state is considerably more valuable than the second state.  The first state in fine condition routinely costs well over $1,500.  The second state in similar condition costs $500 and up.  The U.S. Chamber of Secrets had THREE states of the 1/1.  The first state has NO number 2 on the spine NOR the dust jacket.  The second state introduces the number 2 on the dust jacket and spine, and the third state shows a price increase from $17.95 to $19.95 on the jacket.  Always check both book and dust jacket!  You may find that someone has placed the dust jacket from a valuable book around one which is not worth as much.  The first state of this book is far more collectible than either of the other states.

According to the back of the Advanced Reader's Copy of the Sorcerer's Stone, there were a total of only 30,000 1/1 copies printed.  We have no information on how many were in each state, but the first state is more desirable and seems to be much more rare.  There were a total of 250,000 1/1 copies of The Chamber of Secrets printed.  We have no information on how many were in each state, but once again the first state is far more desirable.  There were 500,000 1/1 copies of The Prisoner of Azkaban, 1,000,000 1/1 copies of The Goblet of Fire, 8,000,000 1/1 copies of The Order of the Phoenix, and 10,000,000 1/1 copies of The Half-Blood Prince and even more copies(12,000,000 to 15,000,000) of The Deathly Hallows.

Now, a few quick comments on the U.S. soft cover books.  There are now several editions of the soft cover books out.  The first edition has Mary Grand Pre’s artwork on the cover and is oversized, for children.  They do not currently have any extraordinary value other than providing the pleasure of owning a set of 1/1 Harry Potter books.  You can usually obtain a full set of 1/1 paperback editions for less than $150, if you shop carefully.


The U.K. Trade Editions

If your thirst for collecting is not quenched by the U.S. editions, there are many countries which publish their own editions of the Harry Potter Books (Canada, Australia, Spain, Japan, Russia, Wales, etc.).  However, unsurprisingly, the crown jewels reside in the U.K.  These books are more expensive than their U.S. counterparts.  Not only are they from “the country of origin”, but they are also far more rare than their U.S. cousins.  Consequently, the early UK editions are very expensive.  1/1 copies of the first 3 books may cost anywhere from $800 to well over $20,000 (in the case of the ultra-rare Philosopher’s Stone).  However, the Goblet of  Fire, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows may be found for about $80, $50, $35, and $35 respectively.  There were far more books printed in the first printings of these later books (around 1 million).  There are also “Children” and “Adult” copies of these books.  The covers are the only difference, and the Children’s copies are generally more collectible.  For that reason, we will discuss them below.

The UK version of a “book club edition” is the “Ted Smart Edition”.  Although these books do have some value, they are not nearly as valuable as the true trade editions.  They are identified on the publisher’s page thus, "Printed for The Book People".  Also, the dust jacket of a "Ted Smart Edition" may have ordering information on the back cover.  Likewise, the "Large Print Editions" were printed for libraries and are not nearly as valuable as the trade editions.  Many sellers sell Ted Smart and Large Print Editions without clearly identifying them as the less valuable volumes, so make certain you get clarification from them if you have any questions whatsoever.  They are easily spotted, as the words "Large Print Edition" appear in the black band located on the bottom of the cover.  Exercise caution when purchasing and make certain you are getting the edition you want.

Unlike the U.S. trade editions, there is currently only one UK trade edition which has multiple states.  The Prisoner of Azkaban 1/1 has THREE states.  The first state listed the copyright to Joanne Rowling, rather than J.K. Rowling.  There is also dropped text in this state, but the copyright alone will indicate it is a first state.  The second state corrects the copyright to J.K. Rowling, lists Clays St. Ives as the printer, and has no ads in the rear.  The third state does not mention a printer and has ads at the rear of the book.  There is a vast difference in the value between these states.  In fine condition, the first state routinely costs over $1,500.  The second and third states in similar condition bring $150 to $500.  In time, copies of these later states may prove to be real bargains, as they are still one of only 10,500 first prints.

The 1/1 Goblet of Fire is often advertised as a first state and errors within the pages are quoted.  (For example, “James exits Harry’s wand first, followed by Lily”.)  Actually, these errors existed throughout the entire first printing and there is only one state of this book.

The Philosopher’s Stone 1/1 is VERY rare, but there has been some misinformation circulating about it.  Common thought is that there were 200 soft cover and 300 hardback books printed at the same time.  My more recent research in old UK collecting magazines and Bloomsbury's site lead me to believe that there were actually 500 hardbacks printed and a higher number of soft covers (perhaps as many as 3,000 to 6,000).  Both versions are fairly expensive ($3,000 to $50,000 for the hardbacks and $1,000 to $4,000 for the paperbacks).  The hardback was issued without a dust jacket.  If you don't want to mortgage your house to buy a 1/1 Philosopher's Stone, early printings may be obtained for $400 and up depending on condition and print number.  The third printing was historically significant as the first printing which included a dust jacket.  To the best of our knowledge, there were 10,150 1/1 copies of The Chamber of Secrets, 10,000 1/1 copies of The Prisoner of Azkaban (500 of those were first state), and  1,000,000 1/1 copies of The Goblet of Fire.  About 1/3 of the U.K. GOF books were printed at Omnia Books in Scotland.  The remainder were printed by Clays of London which is the printer of for all other U.K. editions.  The Omnia copies may be a bit more valuable since there are fewer of them.  We have no confirmed information on the number of copies in the two 1/1 versions of the UK trade Order of the Phoenix, but can safely say it was over 1,000,000 copies. The same is true if the number of copies in the two 1/1 versions of the UK trade Half-Blood Prince. 

Collecting 1/1 copies of the U.K. paperbacks makes a nice alternative to their very expensive hardback cousins.  There are now several editions of the soft cover books out.  The first editions were printed in 1997 through 2003 and are the most collectible.  They cost between $20 and $200 each, with the early books being the most expensive.  The 1/1 soft cover Philosopher’s Stone is beyond reach for most of us.  It was released concurrently with the hard back edition and only 200 copies were in the first printing.  However, with careful shopping, a good early edition may be purchased for $100-$400, depending on condition. 

Another great option for the collector who wants to own first edition UK books is purchasing ex-library copies.  These are books which once resided in libraries in the U.K. They are sold in library sales. They are usually a bit beat up, but they are quite affordable and appear on eBay and in shops occasionally. Recently, I was able to purchase 2 UK paperbacks, an early Philosopher's Stone and a first printing Chamber, WITH JKR's signature from a gentleman who helped clean up a school library. They came with stickers on them which certify them to be "Signed by the Author". I got both of them for only $200. Yes, they are a bit ragged, BUT the signatures are 100% correct, and I like to think that JKR would love that dozens of children got to read her books before they were retired. Many early UK Potter books went to libraries. It is part of the history of Harry. So, if you are looking for affordable collectible books, take a look at ex-library books and see if they are for you. Look for the stamp that says they were properly removed from circulation.

Celebratory Editions (which have been released with each movie) have foil stars on their covers.  They are less valuable, but do make a nice set.  You should be able to find them for about $10.00 to $20.00 each.  The second editions were all published in 2004 and feature new cover designs.  You should be able to pick up the complete set of 1/1 books for $50 to $80.  The first edition trade soft covers do hold more value than their U.S. counterparts, as there were far fewer printed.  The celebratory and second editions do not currently have any extraordinary value other than providing the pleasure of owning a set of 1/1’s. 


Collector’s and/or Deluxe Editions

There are collector’s editions of all the Harry Potter books available in both the U.K. and the U.S. 

The U.K. Deluxe Editions are quite lovely and make wonderful, reasonably priced gifts for fans.  They are bound in cloth boards with the cover from the U.K. book in the center of the front cover.  They also feature J.K. Rowling’s signature in gold, gild-edged pages, and a sewn-in silk bookmark.  The 1/1 copies of these books are quite rare and are priced from $65 to $1,500.  The Prisoner of Azkaban is especially rare and is usually priced between $1,500 and $2,000.  There were only 7,000 copies printed.  There were 12,000 copies of the 1/1 Philosopher’s Stone and 17,000 of the 1/1 Chamber of Secrets printed.  As with the trade editions, there were significantly more 1/1 copies of the Goblet of Fire (30,000 to 35,000) and Order of the Phoenix printed, making them significantly less valuable.  The term “First Edition” is used on the publisher’s page of  GoF , OotP, HBP, and DH to indicate a true first edition.  Misinformation on these print numbers was widely disseminated among book sellers.  It incorrectly identified these books as more rare than they actually are.  Please make sure you are aware that the higher numbers listed here come from the publisher, Bloomsbury Books, and should be accurate.

The U.S. Collector’s Editions are a little less desirable to me, personally.  (You may disagree.)  The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are made of a pressed leather material.  The Sorcerer’s Stone does have a great drawing of Harry by J.K. Rowling in the front of the book.  There were 100,000 copies of each printed and to my knowledge there was no second printing.  I had heard that Scholastic planned on printing The Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire in successive Novembers.  However, I have not heard anything within the past year to indicate that they are following through on that plan.  Additionally, the U.S. Deluxe Editions of Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows do not look like the Collector’s Editions.  It is not leather bound, but has a special dust jacket with more Grand Pre artwork on it (depicting Grimmauld Place) and comes housed in a nice slip case.


Proofs and Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs)

Proofs were released to editors and reviewers in the U.K. prior to publication of the first three Harry Potter books.  They contain numerous errors which were remedied before the first printing and feature release information on the rear cover.  These proofs were very limited in number and many were damaged or thrown away.  Therefore, they are quite rare and quite valuable.  A Proof Copy of the Philosopher’s Stone in good condition will generally cost over $6,000.  The Chamber of Secrets will cost over $2,500, as will The Prisoner of Azkaban (green and white and more rare purple and white versions).  These books have soft covers.  As far as I know, only the COS featured a proof dust jacket wrapped around it.

The U.S. equivalent of proofs are ARCs.  They were also printed prior to the first three books.  There were between 3,000 and 5,000 of each printed, making them far more rare than the U.S. trade editions.  They generally cost between $100 and $800 each, depending on title and condition.


Comic Relief Text Books

J.K. Rowling wrote two small "text Books" for Comic Relief.  They are "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them".  They are available in U.S. and U.K. editions, and even in a "book bag" edition.  The 1/1 editions are available for about $10-$15 each.  They are not terribly collectible, but are lots of fun to read.


Signatures (Or “Something Wicked this Way Comes”)

I think many of us would love to own an item signed by either J.K. Rowling or cast members from the wonderful Harry Potter movies. 

Unfortunately, there are millions (and millions, and millions) of devoted readers and only one JKR.  These days, her time is spent with her growing family, writing, or working with charities.  There are thousands of books with her signature, but tens of thousands of books with her forged signature.  Forged books are a huge industry for unscrupulous or unknowing sellers.

Similarly, there are millions (and millions) of devoted movie fans and only a handful of actors who have starred in the Harry Potter movies.  Imagine their schedule for a moment… working on the set, attending tutor sessions and classes, posing for stills, attending premiers and publicity functions… yeesh!  When would Daniel, Emma, and Ruppert be able to SIGN things?!  The answer is- infrequently!  On the set sometimes… entering or exiting appearances.  With the upcoming double releases this Summer, it is time for sellers of fraudulent "cast signed" items to appear on eBay. I believe the percentage of fake cast signed items is quite a bit higher than that of fake signed books. Genuine cast-signed items can be found and are fun to own. However, please be VERY careful when looking for a signed poster or photo. Make sure you do your homework! ArtBox has issued cast-signed autograph cards. If you search through those as they are offered on eBay, you will see genuine examples of the main actors' signatures. Note that J.K. Rowling was not able to attend the "Goblet" premiere. Therefore, recent cast-signed posters/photos with her signature on them are HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS.

You may also want to check out our I Would Not Buy That! section of questionable signatures. If you are a member, you have access to the Restricted Section of The Owlery Forum, which features information on sellers and auctions, and examples of good signatures.  If you are not a member, but want to be, you can apply here.

Lets cover a few specific points on various signed items.


J.K. Rowling’s Signature

The value of any Harry Potter book climbs dramatically once J.K. Rowling’s signature is added to it (up to $500 or more).  Therefore, there is a lot of incentive for people to forge her signature.  The best way to purchase signatures is from a reputable seller, but even they make mistakes.  Watch for the following points:

Very generally speaking, JKR’s signature –

· flows gracefully from one letter to another (with the odd exception of her being on the go as she signs the book)

· is usually signed straight across the page, rather than diagonally

· uses white space and does NOT pass through large sections of text or graphics

· is usually signed in ball point (especially in the UK books), roller ball or fine tip felt though we have seen lovely signatures in medium point felt

· appears on the INSIDE of the book  (Remember that signatures appearing on the outside of the dust jacket MAY have been scanned in to a PC and printed using a laser printer.)

· does NOT include multiple small bumps – this may be an indication that the signature was drawn or traced onto the page

Be cautious when purchasing –

· later-printing signed books (Most signings were held to promote a book and most signatures are in first or early printings.  This is especially true in the U.K. editions, where JKR generally signs the 1/1 hardback book at her signings, and allows only one or two books per person.)  Although there ARE legitimately signed later-printing books, forgers love to use later printing books, because they do not want to pay for expensive books. 

· ANY signed U.S. book which was printed after The Prisoner of Azkaban 1/1 (JKR’s last tour in the U.S. was for this book.  Although a FEW copies of The Goblet of Fire were sent to the U.K. for signature, JKR did NOT tour the U.S. for that book.  There are only a VERY few signed copies of the U.S. Order of the Phoenix.)

· ANY signed UK Order of the Phoenix  (There have been 2-3 brief signing sessions and one longer session for this book.  They were by invitation only.  True signatures in this book are QUITE rare.)

· ANY signed paperback  (There are definitely signed paperbacks, especially from early in JKR’s career, but they are relatively few.  Please be careful.)

· ANY book signed with a thick felt pen  (Some forgers prefer this type of pen because it can hide errors.)

Remember to ALWAYS get an image of the actual signature you are buying BEFORE you make a purchase.  Keep the image and if the delivered product does not live up to it, send the item back to the seller.  If you have any doubts, seek a second opinion on the signature.



Personally, I really like bookplates as a source for JKR’s signature.  They are relatively safe as long as you choose a bookplate provided by either Bloomsbury or Scholastic.  They are also a great way to insure that an already-precious book will have her signature in it.  This has become especially important as she has decreased her personal appearances. 

There are several exceptions to this point.  First, Scholastic issued a large number of bookplates with JKR’s PREPRINTED signature.  These were not signed in person, but the signature was printed onto the bookplate.  These can be easily identified by the fact that the preprinted bookplates read "Compliments of J.K. Rowling” while the bookplates with the hand-signed signatures read “J.K. Rowling”. This is a very important point to remember.  I recently saw a nationally reputable bookseller in the U.S. sell one of these preprinted bookplates as hand signed, when it was actually preprinted.  The book it was in sold for over $4,000, based partially on the bookplate being hand-signed, when it was actually a preprinted giveaway item.

Second, J.K. Rowling signs and donates bookplates for charitable causes.  Sometimes she signs on plain bookplates.  If you purchase a bookplate which has not been issued by one of the publishers, make certain a note from JKR’s personal assistant (signed) or JKR herself (almost always unsigned) accompanies it. 

Several book sellers have started selling “facsimile” bookplates – which are copied bookplates.  These are fine for those on a budget, as long as you clearly understand that you are NOT buying J.K. Rowling’s hand-signed signature.  Make certain that if you paid for a signed bookplate, it is not a photocopy.  (That is, you can see indents in the paper from pressure being applied with the pen.  You can also usually see the indents from the back of the bookplate.)

You can expect to pay $200 to $500 and up per bookplate.  If a bookplate is priced under that, remember the old adage that “you get what you pay for”.  If it is priced well over that (I have seen them priced above $1,200), keep in mind that you may be able to find one for a less money.


Signed Movie Items

Be very cautious when purchasing items which have supposedly been signed by cast members.  The cast has few opportunities to sign posters and photos.  It DOES happen on occasion, but those occasions are infrequent.  Ask the seller WHEN the cast was gathered to sign the poster, then CHECK the news and see if such an event occurred and which members of the cast attended.  Even then, proceed with caution – there just are not that many opportunities to obtain cast signatures.  Be cautious when dealing with sellers who offer many signed items week after week, yet offer no proof of how the signatures were obtained.  (One of our Army members is very privileged to know 2 cast members of the Harry Potter films.  He has visited premiers, been on location for nearly 2 weeks with the cast, attended private cast parties, and toured the studio.  Yet, he has obtained and sold only 50-100 signed items over the course of nearly 4 years.)   

If the item you are looking at includes J.K. Rowling’s signature, it should be subjected to additional scrutiny.  Although she does sign movie items on occasion, that occasion is VERY rare.  She VERY RARELY appears with the cast, and she does NOT sign items that are sent to her in the mail. 

Make CERTAIN you know what the cast signatures should look like.  Most cast members started working on these movies at the age of 10 or 11.  They are now 16-18.  Their signatures have changed.  Watch for “old” looking signatures on recently published items – a definite warning sign.  If you haven’t done so, read our section on Research. Once again, feel free to contact us for our opinion.

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you purchase a "signed" Harry Potter movie script. Scripts are copyrighted by Warner Brothers. Ms. Rowling, cast, and crew would NOT sign such an item. This is the one time when a collecting decision is actually EASY. Cast-signed scripts are FAKES. Period.

Be wary of preprints!  A preprint is fine as long as you know that is what you are buying and it is priced accordingly.  A preprinted signature is not necessarily authentic.  Some sellers resell the image of an autograph they purchased.  Therefore, preprints may be pictures of forged signatures.  The BEST source of preprints is to write each star and request one.  They will be sent to you free of charge and you will be assured of their authenticity.  MuggleNet features contact information for the cast here and member Megan put together a great list here.

Preprints may ALSO be forgeries. A fan may buy a bad signature and unknowingly reproduce it for sale. Therefore, once again, remember to RESEARCH the signature you want and ALWAYS get an image of the actual signature you are buying BEFORE you make a purchase.  Keep the image and if the delivered product does not live up to it, send the item back to the seller.

Before we move on to the next section, let me share a horrible little preprint story with you.  I purchased a Chamber of Secrets poster with the signatures of many cast members on it – I think it was something like 16 signatures.  The poster also included JKR’s signature.  It was a full-size, BEAUTIFUL poster.  It featured my favorite art from the movie and really beautiful signatures which were all easy to read. The signatures were all consistent with actual samples.  I spent $350 on this poster, paid for it to be professionally mounted, and it became the centerpiece of my living room.  Well, fast forward a year.  The same seller listed a poster from Prisoner of Azkaban and the signatures were almost identical.  “What are the odds of that?” I asked myself as my stomach started to turn.  “Almost NIL”, myself answered.  The signatures of all three main actors have changed over the last several years.  I took the poster to my framing specialist and he removed it from the frame.  Upon closer examination, there was no change in texture nor luster on the signatures.  Also, the poster itself did not have the sheen that posters have.  The entire “poster” and the signatures had been printed all at once on a large-scale color plotter.  After MUCH argument, the seller refunded the purchase price.  However, she did NOT refund the shipping charges nor the expense of having it mounted for framing.  The experience was heartbreaking and stressful.  Please try not let something like this happen to you. 


Building a Great Collection on a Budget

If you are on a smaller budget, please don’t be discouraged by talk of expensive books and movie memorabilia. 

One very cool thing about collecting is that if you take the time to learn about whatever item draws your interest, you WILL find bargains.  There are many opportunities to obtain items at half value or less if the seller is in a hurry to sell.  I have funded several additions to my own collection by reselling bargains at full price and putting the money aside for an item I really wanted.

Another very cool thing about collecting is that you don’t HAVE to collect expensive things.  There are loads of budget items that, when mixed in with your Harry Potter books or DVDs, will absolutely make your collection shine.  There are beautiful and delicate Secret Boxes which feature Harry, Hermione, or Hedwig (I am especially fond of Hermione’s).  There are licensed costume items such as scarves, neck ties, and Quidditch goggles.  There are some VERY neat items from Japan… licensed wand reproductions, Hermione’s time turner, Hogwarts pins, Head Boy badges, Hermione’s mirror, and very cute POA key chains.  There are some GREAT Harry Potter bookends to hold up your well-loved books.  There are some wonderful mugs made in the U.K. (they feature the house seals or scenes from the books).  There are also about 50 billion Harry Potter refrigerator magnets (stop laughing and keep reading).  These magnets are about 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches and feature the covers of the U.S. and U.K. books, scenes from the movies, or movie posters.  They fit in the small acrylic photo frames available at any Walmart-Kmart-Target type store for 99 cents.  They look great framed and placed in among your books.  (Okay- now you can laugh if you still want to.)  There are electronic press kits which feature 20 to 40 photos from each movie.  (These photos can be printed and mixed in with your collection.)  There are theater trailers from all the movies.  Some sell for around $5.00.  The older ones are more expensive.  Even a Gryffindor or Slytherin patch (as seen on the robes in POA) looks good when placed on your bookshelf with your HP books ($3.00 each).  There are promotional items which were distributed to the press (a wand, a cauldron, a potions kit, a divination kit).  There are lots of nice coins (both Warner Brothers-issued and commemorative).  ArtBox Trading Cards issues trading cards which contain pieces of props or wardrobe in them or feature authentic, hand-signed autographs.  There are used press tickets, cast and crew tickets, and studio passes and… well… all KINDS of things that you can purchase for a few dollars each.  Our newest member collects a wonderful assortment of Harry Potter watches.  Models range from the numerous and VERY reasonably priced children's watches to the more expensive and beautiful Limited Edition Fossil pocket watches.  There was even a pocket watch given to the Cast and Crew of HP1 as a "Thank You".  They are occasionally available in online auctions. 

The fun lies in deciding what you would like to collect, finding a few bargains, and building a collection that pleases you.  If you take a few moments to learn these basics and buy wisely, you will not be disappointed.



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