A Spellbinding $394,000 for J.K. Rowling's Writing Chair at Heritage Auctions
NEW YORK - The chair used by author J.K. Rowling while she wrote the first two Harry Potter books - Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - sold for a spellbinding $394,000 - eight times its opening bid - at a public auction of rare books held April 6, 2016 by Heritage Auctions at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. The winning bidder wanted to remain anonymous.
“I was quite surprised [J.K. Rowling] would sell the chair; she originally sold it for a children’s charity,” said owner Gerald Gray, a native of England and the CEO of AutoKontrol USA, Inc. “Following in the tradition that J.K. Rowling started with this chair, I plan to donate 10% of the hammer price achieved to Lumos, Rowlings’s children’s’ charity.
“And I truly believe it should be on display somewhere,” said Gray, who attended the auction at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. “The United States has such amazing theme parks devoted to ‘Harry Pottery’ so I hope it ends up on display where fans may see it.”
A few years after the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rowling donated the chair to a small auction in 2002 called Chair-ish a Child, in aid of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Rather than selling it in its original form, Rowling used gold, rose, and green paints to transform the chair into a piece of literary memorabilia. It sold for $21,000.
The owner then offered it in an online auction in 2009, during which Gray purchased it for roughly $29,000. As part of Heritage Auction’s global public relations campaign, the chair has been on display at the firm’s Park Avenue, New York, office on a custom rotating platform. For weeks, families posed for photos with what is arguably the most important piece of Harry Potter memorabilia that exists.
The chair comes from a set that Rowling was given for her government housing flat when she was a young, single mother living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rowling took the most comfortable of the chairs and used it as her main writing chair, authoring the first two of what would become one of the most influential series of all time: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (released in America as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
On the stiles and splats, in gold and rose colors, she painted: “You may not / find me pretty / but don't judge / on what you see.”
Rowling signed the backrest in the gold and rose paints. Then along the apron of the seat she painted: “I wrote / Harry Potter / while sitting / on this chair.”
“Gryffindor” is painted on the cross stretcher under the seat.
Accompanying the chair is the original “Owl Post” that Rowling typed and signed to the winner of the Chair-ish a Child auction. It reads: “Dear new-owner-of-my-chair / I was given four mismatched dining room chairs in 1995 and this was the comfiest one, which is why it / ended up stationed permanently in front of my typewriter, supporting me while I typed out 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' and 'Harry / Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'. / My nostalgic side is quite sad to see it go, but my back isn't. / J. K. Rowling.”
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