Chair J.K. Rowling used to write Harry Potter series sells for $394,000 at auction
A chair used, and later decorated, by author J.K. Rowling while she wrote the first two Harry Potter books on display alongside a letter of provenance from the author at Heritage Auctions in New York on April 4, 2016 ahead of its sale on April 6. (WILLIAM EDWARDS / AFP PHOTO)
Ula Ilnytzky, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, April 6, 2016 2:39PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 6, 2016 3:03PM EDT
NEW YORK -- The humble chair J.K. Rowling sat on while writing the first two books of the Harry Potter series was auctioned in New York City on Wednesday for $394,000.
An anonymous private collector made the winning bid, Heritage Auctions said.
The chair is one of four mismatched chairs given to the then little-known writer for her flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, and which she used while writing "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
The seller, Gerald Gray, of Worsley, England, said the winning bid far exceeded his expectations.
The unassuming 1930s-era oak chair with a replacement burlap seat decorated with a red thistle sat in front of Rowling's typewriter when she was "writing two of the most important books of the modern era," said James Gannon, director of rare books at Heritage Auctions.
The chair was auctioned before -- once by Rowling herself to benefit a charity in 2002 where it fetched $21,000, and on eBay in 2009 where it brought $29,000.
"I plan to donate 10 per cent to J.K. Rowling's charity, Lumos, because that's what she did in the first place," said Gray, a businessman who runs an automobile speed control equipment company in Manchester, England, and in Sarasota, Florida, called AutoKontrol.
He said he would like to see the new buyer display it somewhere where children could see it, perhaps in a museum or theme park.
He bought the chair in 2009 after his daughter, a Harry Potter fan, saw it on eBay.
Before Rowling donated the chair to the "Chair-rish a Child" auction in support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 2002, she painted the words "You may not/find me pretty/but don't judge/on what you see" on the stiles and splats. She also signed the backrest in gold and rose colours and wrote "I wrote/Harry Potter/while sitting/on this chair" on the seat.
The word "Gryffindor," the Hogwarts house of Harry, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, is spelled out on a cross stretcher.
The chair is accompanied by an original typed and signed letter Rowling wrote prior to the first 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."
The first book was released in the United States in 1998 with the title "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
"The characters that Rowling created are the super heroes of the millennials as Batman and Superman were for the Sixties," said Rick Rounick, owner of the Soho Contemporary Art gallery, which specializes in pop culture. "The chair that Rowling claims gave her the magic to create the world of Harry Potter is a singularly significant object of her art and creative energy."
This undated file photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows details of the chair that J.K. Rowling sat on while writing the first two books of the Harry Potter series. (Joseph Schroeder / Heritage Auctions via AP)