10 Pieces of Harry Potter Memorabilia From an Unofficial Collector’s Guide

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

You may own all seven Harry Potter books, all eight films, and a closet filled with swag to match your Hogwarts house, but would you spend thousands of dollars on a piece of rare Harry Potter memorabilia? For his new book Harry Potter: The Unofficial Guide to the Collectibles of Our Favorite Wizard, Eric Bradley compiled some of the most magical items to come from the wizarding world. Whether they belong to private buyers or have been displayed to the public, here are the pieces he featured that are sure to make every fan wish they knew a summoning charm.

1. CHOCOLATE FROG WIZARD TRADING CARDS

Prop card from Harry Potter film.
ScreenUsed

As is the case in Harry Potter, chocolate frog wizard trading cards are collector's items. But instead of being worth a few sickles, they can sell for hundreds in the real world. This prop card used in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) sold for $475 at an auction in 2012. In place of a disappearing, holographic wizard, the piece of cardboard has a green surface for superimposing computer graphics.

2. HARRY'S FIRST BROOM

Broom from 'Harry Potter' movie and 'Vanity Fair' magazine.
Ewbank's Auctions

This prop broomstick, which is actually made from fiberglass, was ridden by Daniel Radcliffe in the first Harry Potter film. The piece is also identical to the broom the actor appeared with on his 2001 Vanity Fair cover. It’s no Nimbus 2000, but a crew member had no problem selling it even before Sorcerer’s Stone premiered. The broom was purchased by its current owner for $2860.

3. ORIGINAL SORCERER'S STONE POSTER

Original poster art from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Profiles in History

Any poster used to advertise one of the eight Harry Potter films is a potential collector’s item. But this illustration, hand-made by artist Drew Struzan for the first movie, is a work of art that stands on its own. Struzan is best known for creating the iconic posters for Back to the Future (1985) and the Indiana Jones series. Warner Bros. originally planned to have Struzan produce the posters for every installment of the Harry Potter franchise, but following the success of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they switched to photo-heavy promotional art, making Struzan’s sole contribution even more special. His original painting is very similar to the final poster, with only Rupert Grint’s face having been changed. The piece is valued between $40,000 and $60,000.

4. HAGRID’S CROSSBOW

Crossbow prop from Harry Potter movie.
Julien's Auctions

With a flying motorcycle, a menagerie of beastly pets, and a moleskin coat, Hagrid is arguably the coolest wizard living at Hogwarts. But his crossbow may be his most enviable possession of all. For the first film, the production designers aimed to give it a vintage look with distressed wood and iron components. The prop sold for $25,000 at Julien’s Auctions in 2012.

5. UNUSED SHEET MUSIC

Sheet music prop from Harry Potter film.
Animation Ink Archive

Props don’t have to appear in the Harry Potter movies to be sought-after collector's items. As Bradley writes in The Unofficial Guide to the Collectibles of Our Favorite Wizard, sheet music written for a scene that was cut from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ended up gaining attention even without any screen time. The unused print of the music and lyrics, penned in gold ink, was purchased by a fan for $600.

6. ARITHMANCY SIGN

Prop sign from Harry Potter film.
Animation Ink Archive

Looking for the perfect sign to hang beside your collection of Harry Potter books at home? The arithmancy sign that can be seen hanging above a Diagon Alley bookstore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is hard to beat. Chained beneath the text of the sign itself, a gold hand was carved to point passersby in the direction of the shop. A private buyer bought the painted wood prop for $800.

7. LIFE-SIZED DOBBY

Statue of Dobby the house elf.

Grilled Cheese, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A physical Dobby prop wasn’t used to make Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) (unless you count his tennis ball stand-in). But a life-sized model of the house elf was made by Warner Bros. and distributed to Walmart locations across the U.S. According to Eric Bradley, the 28-inch statue was usually awarded to stores as a top sales bonus and eventually raffled off to employees. Only 200 of the promotional products were made, and today they’re worth between $350 and $700 apiece.

8. J.K. ROWLING’S CHARACTER SKETCH

Some readers picture the characters from Harry Potter as the illustrations from the books, while others picture the actors from the film. A rare drawing by J.K. Rowling demonstrated how the author envisioned her creations. Sketched in pencil in 1999, her scene included Hagrid, Snape, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Ron, Harry, Hermione, Dobby, Crookshanks, Fawkes, a golden snitch, and the Sorting Hat. Rowling originally made it for the BBC charity Children in Need. It was auctioned off for $42,000 in 2007.

9. THE TRIWIZARD CUP

Twiwizard cup from Harry Potter movie.
Warner Bros.

The Triwizard Cup sets off the events in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004), making it one of the more memorable props from the film. Though Bradley guesses it could easily go for tens of thousands of dollars at auction, it’s never been sold to a member of the public. The piece of movie memorabilia was made available for anyone to see in 2012 as part of the Harry Potter Exhibition at the London Film Museum.

10. J.K. ROWLING-DESIGNED CHARM BRACELET

Bracelet with Harry Potter charms.
Sotheby's

You won't recognize this piece from the movies or the books. J.K. Rowling designed it exclusively to raise money for Lumos, an organization that works to find families for children placed in orphanages around the world. Many of the charms, like the lightning bolt, the glasses, the Deathly Hallows, and the witch’s hat, are symbols from Harry Potter. The butterfly is the logo for Lumos and it’s meant to symbolize transformation and liberation. A Scottish businessman and father purchased the bracelet at a charity auction in 2013 for $25,000. He said he hopes the keepsake remains in his family for several generations to come.

11 Things You May Not Know About John Lennon

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before he was one of the world's most iconic musicians, John Lennon was a choir boy and a Boy Scout. Let's take a look at a few facts you might not have known about the leader and founding member of The Beatles

1. HE WAS A CHOIR BOY AND A BOY SCOUT.

Yes, John Lennon, the great rock 'n' roll rebel and iconoclast, was once a choir boy and a Boy Scout. Lennon began his singing career as a choir boy at St. Peter's Church in Liverpool, England and was a member of the 3rd Allerton Boy Scout troop.

2. HE HATED HIS OWN VOICE.

Incredibly, one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music hated his own voice. Lennon did not like the sound of his voice and loved to double-track his records. He would often ask the band's producer, George Martin, to cover the sound of his voice: "Can't you smother it with tomato ketchup or something?"

3. HE WAS DISSATISFIED WITH ALL OF THE BEATLES'S RECORDS.

Dining with his former producer, George Martin, one night years after the band had split up, Lennon revealed that he'd like to re-record every Beatles song. Completely amazed, Martin asked him, "Even 'Strawberry Fields'?" "Especially 'Strawberry Fields,'" answered Lennon.

4. HE WAS THE ONLY BEATLE WHO DIDN'T BECOME A FULL-TIME VEGETARIAN.

John Lennon (1940 - 1980) of the Beatles plays the guitar in a hotel room in Paris, 16th January 1964
Harry Benson, Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Harrison was the first Beatle to go vegetarian; according to most sources, he officially became a vegetarian in 1965. Paul McCartney joined the "veggie" ranks a few years later. Ringo became a vegetarian not so much for spiritual reasons, like Paul and George, but because of health problems. Lennon had toyed with vegetarianism in the 1960s, but he always ended up eating meat, one way or another.

5. HE LOVED TO PLAY MONOPOLY.

During his Beatles days, Lennon was a devout Monopoly player. He had his own Monopoly set and often played in his hotel room or on planes. He liked to stand up when he threw the dice, and he was crazy about the properties Boardwalk and Park Place. He didn't even care if he lost the game, as long as he had Boardwalk and Park Place in his possession.

6. HE WAS THE LAST BEATLE TO LEARN HOW TO DRIVE.

Lennon got his driver's license at the age of 24 (on February 15, 1965). He was regarded as a terrible driver by all who knew him. He finally gave up driving after he totaled his Aston-Martin in 1969 on a trip to Scotland with his wife, Yoko Ono; his son, Julian; and Kyoko, Ono's daughter. Lennon needed 17 stitches after the accident.

When they returned to England, Lennon and Ono mounted the wrecked car on a pillar at their home. From then on, Lennon always used a chauffeur or driver.

7. HE REPORTEDLY USED TO SLEEP IN A COFFIN.

According to Allan Williams, an early manager for The Beatles, Lennon liked to sleep in an old coffin. Williams had an old, abandoned coffin on the premises of his coffee bar, The Jacaranda. As a gag, Lennon would sometimes nap in it.

8. THE LAST TIME HE SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS ON APRIL 24, 1976. 

Paul McCartney (left) and John Lennon (1940-1980) of the Beatles pictured together during production and filming of the British musical comedy film Help! on New Providence Island in the Bahamas on 2nd March 1965
William Lovelace, Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

McCartney was visiting Lennon at his New York apartment. They were watching Saturday Night Live together when producer Lorne Michaels, as a gag, offered the Beatles $3000 to come on the show. Lennon and McCartney almost took a cab to the show as a joke, but decided against it, as they were just too tired. (Too bad! It would have been one of the great moments in television history.)

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO SING LEAD ON THE BEATLES'S FIRST SINGLE, 1962'S "LOVE ME DO."

Lennon sang lead on a great majority of the early Beatles songs, but Paul McCartney took the lead on their very first one. The lead was originally supposed to be Lennon, but because he had to play the harmonica, the lead was given to McCartney instead.

10. "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE" WAS THE BEST LYRIC HE EVER WROTE.

A friend once asked Lennon what was the best lyric he ever wrote. "That's easy," replied Lennon, "All you need is love."

11. THE LAST PHOTOGRAPHER TO SNAP HIS PICTURE WAS PAUL GORESH.

Ironically (and sadly), Lennon was signing an album for the person who was to assassinate him a few hours later when he was snapped by amateur photographer Paul Goresh on December 8, 1980.

Lennon obligingly signed a copy of his latest album, Double Fantasy, for Mark David Chapman. Later that same day, Lennon returned from the recording studio and was gunned down by Chapman, the same person for whom he had so kindly signed his autograph.

Morbidly, a photographer sneaked into the morgue and snapped a photo of Lennon's body before it was cremated the day after his assassination. Yoko Ono has never revealed the whereabouts of his ashes or what happened to them.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

11 Facts About Robert the Bruce, King of Scots

Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn
Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn
Edmund LeightonCassell and Company, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The subject of a recent Netflix original movie called Outlaw King, Robert the Bruce is one of Scotland’s great national heroes. Get to know King Bob a little better.

1. Robert the Bruce was a polyglot who loved telling stories.

He likely spoke Scots, Gaelic, Latin, and Norman French, and was an avid reader who loved studying the lives of previous monarchs. According to a parliamentary brief from around 1364, Robert the Bruce "used continually to read, or have read in his presence, the histories of ancient kings and princes, and how they conducted themselves in their times, both in wartime and in peacetime.” In his free time, he would recite tales about Charlemagne and Hannibal from memory.

2. Despite his reputation as Scotland’s savior, he spent years siding with England.

The Bruce family spent the 1290s complaining that they had been robbed of the Scottish Crown. That’s because, after the deaths of King Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret, it was unclear who Scotland's next monarch should be. Debates raged until John Balliol was declared King in 1292. The Bruces, who had closer blood ties to the previous royal family (but not closer paternal ties) considered Balliol an usurper. So when tensions later flared between Balliol and Edward I of England, the resentful Bruces took England’s side.

3. He murdered his biggest political rival.

John Comyn is killed by Robert Bruce and Roger de Kirkpatrick before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, 10 February 1306
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

One of the leading figures standing in the way of Robert the Bruce’s path to Scotland’s throne was Balliol's nephew, John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. In 1306, Robert arranged a meeting with Comyn in the Chapel of Greyfriars in Dumfries, Scotland. There, Robert accused Comyn of treachery and stabbed him. (And when word spread that Comyn had somehow survived, two of Robert’s cronies returned to the church and finished the deed, spilling Comyn’s blood on the steps of the altar.) Shortly after, Robert declared himself King of Scotland and started to plot an uprising against England.

4. He lived in a cave and was inspired by a very persistent spider.

The uprising did not go exactly according to plan. After Robert the Bruce killed Comyn in a church, Pope Clement V excommunicated him. To add salt to his wounds, Robert's ensuing attempts to battle England became a total failure. In the winter of 1306, he was forced to flee Scotland and was exiled to a cave on Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland.

Legend has it that as Robert took shelter in the cave, he saw a spider trying—and failing—to spin a web. The creature kept attempting to swing toward a nearby rock and refused to give up. Bruce was so inspired by the spider’s tenacity that he vowed to return to Scotland and fight. Within three years, he was holding his first session of parliament.

5. He went to battle with a legion of ponies.

For battle, Robert the Bruce preferred to employ a light cavalry of ponies (called hobbies) and small horses (called palfreys) in a tactic known as hobelar warfare. In one famous story, a young English knight named Sir Henry de Bohun sat atop a large warhorse and saw Robert the Bruce mounted upon a palfrey. Bohun decided to charge. Robert saw his oncoming attacker and stood in his stirrups—putting him at the perfect height to swing a battleaxe at the oncoming horseman’s head. After slaying his opponent, the king reportedly complained, “I have broken my good axe.”

6. He loved to eat eels.

Robert the Bruce
iStock.com/fotoVoyager

Robert the Bruce’s physician, Maino de Maineri, criticized the king’s penchant for devouring eels. “I am certain that this fish should not be eaten because I have seen it during the time I was with the king of the Scots, Robert Bruce, who risked many dangers by eating [moray eels], which are by nature like lampreys," de Maineri wrote. "It is true that these [morays] were caught in muddy and corrupt waters.” (Notably, overeating eels was considered the cause of King Henry I England’s death.)

7. His underdog victory at Bannockburn proved that quality could defeat quantity.

In 1314, Robert the Bruce defeated King Edward II’s army at Bannockburn, sending England (as the popular anthem Flower of Scotland goes) “homeward tae think again.” It was a surprising victory; the English had about 2000 armored horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers, compared to the Scots's 500 horsemen and 7000 foot soldiers. But Robert the Bruce used geography to his advantage, forcing the English to attempt crossing two large and boggy streams. The victory was a huge turning point in the Scottish War of Independence and would help secure Scotland's freedom.

8. He’s firmly intertwined with the Knights Templar mythology.

Treasure hunters speculate that in the 14th century, the Knights Templar fled to Scotland with a trove of valuables because they received support and protection from King Robert the Bruce. Thanks to his help, they say, the Knights were able to hide gold and holy relics—from ancient Gospel scrolls to the Holy Grail—in secret spots across the country (including in Rosslyn Chapel, of The Da Vinci Code fame). But there is little evidence to support these colorful myths. Templar scholar and medieval historian Helen Nicholson said that any remaining Knights Templar were likely hanging out in the balmy climes of Cyprus.

9. He’s still donating money to a Scottish church.

Robert the Bruce and Elizabeth de Burgh
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

After the death of his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert the Bruce decreed to give the Auld Kirk in Cullen, Scotland—now the Cullen and Deskford Parish—a total of five Scots pounds every year. That's because, in 1327, Elizabeth had died after falling off a horse, and the local congregation generously took care of her remains. Robert was so touched by the gesture that he promised to donate money “for all eternity.” To this day, his bequest is still being paid.

10. Parts of his body are buried in multiple places.

Robert the Bruce died on June 7, 1329, just a month before his 55th birthday. The cause of his death has been a source of much discussion, and disagreement, but most modern scholars believe that he succumbed to leprosy. His funeral was a rather elaborate affair that required nearly 7000 pounds of candle wax just for the funerary candles. Following the fashion for royalty, he was buried in multiple places. His chest was sawed open and his heart and internal organs removed: The guts were buried near his death-place at the Manor of Cardross, near Dumbarton; his corpse interred in Dunfermline Abbey; and his heart placed inside a metal urn to be worn around the neck of Sir James Douglas, who promised to take it to the Holy Lord.

11. His heart was the original “Brave Heart.”

Unfortunately, Sir Douglas never made it to the Holy Land: He got sidetracked and took a detour to fight the Moors in Spain, where he was killed. Before his attackers reached him, Douglas reportedly threw the urn containing the king’s heart and yelled, “Lead on brave heart, I’ll follow thee.” The heart was soon returned to Scotland, where its location was forgotten until a team of archaeologists discovered it in 1921. It’s now interred in Melrose Abbey.

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