A "near-perfect" first edition copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone could smash records at auction, experts have said.

The JK Rowling novel, which was kept in darkness unread, unopened and in a protective sleeve for 25 years, goes under the hammer at an online sale run by Hansons Auctioneers in the UK on Wednesday.

The hardback copy, one of only 500 in the first Potter book print run in 1997, could reach at least £100,000 (€120,000) when the bidding has finished, auctioneers have said.

A similar copy of the book, in near mint condition, fetched $471,000 (€431,000) from a €70,000 dollars estimate at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, in the US, in December 2021.

This is one of only 500 produced in the first print run in 1997 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

But the seller of this latest copy to come to auction, said that in 1997 he nearly asked for his money back when he got the book from his local Surrey vendor – because it did not have a slip cover.

The anonymous seller, who paid £12.99 (€15.60) at the time, said: "It didn’t have a dust jacket and I thought it should.

"I was really disappointed when I went to pick it up. I’m a collector and, being a first edition, I expected it to have one.

"I decided to keep the book on the toss of a coin.

"It was a moment of destiny."

Auctioneer Jim Spencer holds a pristine first edition hardback of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

However, the 68-year-old retired paper merchant director from West Sussex only discovered years later that the first edition hardbacks never came with a slip cover – so his copy was as good as it possibly could be.

He said: "It’s in the best condition it possibly can be – almost perfect I would say.

"It’s never been read.

"A year after I bought it, with Harry Potter excitement growing at my daughter’s school, she asked if she could read it.

"I said no, absolutely not."

The seller, who is also auctioning his mint-state copy of Chamber Of Secrets, said he had now "reached the time of life when it would be useful to pay off the mortgage", so he had decided to sell.

Jim Spencer, Hansons’ books expert, who has sourced and sold 14 hardback issues of Philosopher’s Stone, said: "My only fear was that it was too good to be true.

The book has never been read and was kept in darkness for 25 years inside a protective sleeve

"I inspected the book closely, again and again, comparing it with two other first issues of the same work, studying the covers and text with a magnifying glass.

"Everything added up perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. It was like stepping back in time to 1997."

Charles Hanson, Hansons’ owner, said: "It would be amazing to beat the price achieved in America with this near-perfect, as-good-as-new Potter first edition.

"Our guide price is £40,000-£60,000, (€48,000 - €72,000) roughly the same as the estimate put on the book sold in Dallas.

"I’d like to think our copy could achieve £100,000 or, better still, smash the world record."

Source: Press Association