My adventure into buying a Harry Potter book for thousands of dollars! Part 1.

Recently, my wife and I did something a little crazy. We bought a 1st edition, 1st printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for thousands of dollars. Yikes!

I know. It’s nutty. 

I’m not rich, so a purchase of this magnitude doesn’t happen on a whim. It comes in baby steps. Backtracks. Two steps forward and one step back—that sort of thing. 

To explain, let me take you back in time. 

When I was a kid, I collected comic books. In the world of comic book collecting, what’s most sought after are rare first appearances, many of which come in obscure issues in the middle of a series. For instance, in 1939, Batman swept into Gotham in the 27th issue of Detective Comics. Thor first wielded his mighty hammer in Journey into Mystery 83 in 1962. Deadpool’s snarky one-liners first graced the pages of New Mutants 98 in 1991. (I used to have that comic and sold it at a yard sale for pennies! Ugh.) Anyway, my top-three favorite comic book characters have always been Superman, Batman, and Wolverine in that order. The first Superman, Action Comics no. 1, has been the gold standard comic book since forever. It was always untouchable. Much the same for Batman. Good copies of either of their first appearances can easily bring over $1,000,000 today. But Wolverine…that one was potentially within reach. 

Wolverine first showed up in Incredible Hulk 181 in 1974. Back in the 80s, near mint copies were a few hundred bucks, that’s if you could find one, which I never could in a world prior to the internet. On rare occasions, I saw them at comic book conventions, but they were never near mint, and I didn’t have the money even if they were. So, sadly, I didn’t get one, and as the years progressed, the value of the book doubled, and doubled, and doubled again. It was ALWAYS just out of reach. But in 2005, my wife and I sold a house, and for the first time in my life I had quite a lot of money in the bank. My wife wanted a piano. I wanted a comic book! 

We both got what we wanted. 

I purchased a CGC graded 9.6 Incredible Hulk 181 for $1200 on eBay. It sounded crazy, a stupendous, ridiculous indulgence. But I had watched that book like a hawk for twenty years. It always went up in value. Maybe not month-to-month, but given any years-long stretch, it was up significantly. My wife, God bless her, never questioned me buying it. I made a case for it, it seemed I was handling our finances okay, and she trusted me. 

Time moved on, and right around three years ago, my career was going through a rough patch. I’d lost a very good job, and while we had two rental houses with equity—so our net worth was looking pretty good—we were barely paying the bills. Actually, our checking account was steadily dwindling. It was super depressing. And scary. And there were times I was quite angry about it. The monthly payments on my wife’s van felt like an anchor around my neck. 

There was one financial lever I could pull before being forced to sell a house. 

You guessed it. My prized comic book. 

Since buying it, truthfully, I’d stopped collecting comics. And while it certainly dazzled me every time I took it out of the safe, it no longer fit in my life because I’d established a rule: If I had something of value, and would no longer buy it for what it was currently worth, it was time to sell. That was the case with stocks and other such investments, and my collectible comic book was no different. I sold my near mint copy of Incredible Hulk 181 at an auction for the record price of $7200. After paying the auction fees, I cleared just enough to pay off the van. When that was done, the weight was no longer hanging around my neck, but I lamented to a friend, “I just sold a rapidly appreciating asset that’s incredibly cool and rare, to pay off a rapidly depreciating van that’s completely uncool and not rare at all.” 

But that’s life, right? Sometimes we have to cash in the chips and be grateful. 

Generally, I was grateful, and for years I didn’t regret the decision to sell. The principle was sound: when I sold it, I wasn’t willing to buy it for over $7000, so selling was the right move. It was. It had to be. But…

Dang it if that book didn’t continue its upward trajectory, and today, incredible scarce high-grade copies like I had sell for over $20,000. In comparison, I eventually sold my old van for only three grand. That stings. I hate to say it, but today, I actually regret selling the comic book. 

In a very roundabout way, that leads us to this newest purchase, and why I invested in Harry Potter. 

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