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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Cover flaw may make Potter book even more coveted item

By Noelle Chun
Advertiser Staff Writer

Unlike the shiny blue foil on most copies of J.K. Rowlings' best seller, right, James Tumblin ended up buying his nephew a copy with a misprint, left, launching a search for an appraisal.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

As Josh Stanley cradled the copy of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" his uncle had just given him, he realized something was different about his book.

It wasn't a special edition, but the coloring differed from others he had seen. Instead of the shiny blue foil that embosses most books, Stanley's copy was dull and dark.

Could it be that his uncle, James Tumblin, a collector of "Gone with the Wind" memorabilia, inadvertently bought a misprint of the top-selling book?

Well, yes. But what that means depends on whom you ask.

Tumblin and his nephew believe they have a valuable misprint. They called auction house giants Sotheby's and Christie's and described the jacket cover. Tumblin said they'd been told the book could be worth thousands of dollars.

However, representatives of Sotheby's contacted by The Advertiser refused to put a price tag on the possibilities, because neither auction house is purchasing Potter's most recent book .

Christie's representatives were hesitant to gauge the book's value. "It's hard to appraise it, since the phenomenon is so new," said one.

A more careful inspection would be required to determine whether the auction house would even be interested.

Local collectors couldn't put a value on it either.

"It's hard for me to come up with a value because it's so new," said A. Pake Zane of Antique Alley. "The whole of the collectible industry is predicated by supply and demand. If the demand is high, you'll have a better chance (of a high value). ...

"Maybe there will be people who look for the odd book."

Stanley's copy was purchased at midnight June 21, the book's release date, at Borders, Ward Center. Borders' marketing manager Les Honda said the copy was part of a handful of misprinted covers the store received.

Honda isn't sure if Stanley's is the lone misprint to make it to the public.

"A few customers came back to exchange the covers," Honda said. The store returned the faulty copies to Scholastic Inc., the book's publisher. Borders officials declined to give an exact number of returned copies.

Scholastic Inc. representative Helen Boltson, after reviewing an e-mailed copy of Stanley's book, explained that "the foiling did not take to the paper correctly."

She added that Scholastic would be happy to replace the discolored cover. Asked if the flaw made the book a collector's item, Boltson said she didn't have any answers.

"Like many other collectibles, to some it might be collectible; to others, a defect. But (it) can't hurt to hold onto it," she said.

"Order of the Phoenix" is on its third printing, with some 9.3 million copies in circulation. Stanley's jacket cover isn't the only problem Scholastic has had keeping up with massive sales.

Books with missing pages have been reported at Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Waldenbooks.

"We received an e-mail from our national offices telling us that 30 pages were missing from some books," said Jared Shimamoto, the manager at Barnes and Noble at the Kahala Mall. "We were told to ship them back to Scholastic."

A seller of a book with missing pages recently tested the online auction market on eBay. Bidding ended at $127.50 — $91.51 more than the book's retail price.

Books with other errors were also listed on eBay. A British seller is asking for 100 pounds (about $163.07) for a book with a misspelled word. The seller has yet to see any takers, however.

Stanley is going to wait and see how his copy stands up.

"We're just tickled," said Tumblin. "We're planning to keep it."

Correction: Scholastic Inc. is the publisher of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." A previous version of this story described the company incorrectly.