£1.50 Hobbit.webp

A first edition of The Hobbit bought at a car boot sale for £1.50 could be worth thousands of pounds if sold at auction.

The text was among a box of random books a bargain hunter picked up at Bath Racecourse - after he knocked the seller down from £2.

He then plonked them in his garage to gather dust for the next five years.

On putting up a shelf he remembered the books and rescued them from the outbuilding.

After setting aside a book on medicine, one among the others caught his eye.

Bargain Hunt star Richard Madley, from Cardiff, dubbed the text "one of the holy grails".

"He glanced upon a bright green, white and blue jacket and thought, 'That's quite jazzy, it looks 1930s to me'," Mr Madley explained.

"He looked at the cover and thought, 'Oh, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.'

"He put it down, made a cup of coffee and got on the internet. And thought, 'Holy shamoley'.

"The next morning he knocked on my door."

Bargain Hunt star Richard Madley said only a few thousand were ever printed

The book was a 1937 first edition, second impression copy of Tolkien's children's fantasy novel.

Mr Madley said only a few thousand were published but the printer was bombed in the Blitz so even fewer survived.

Last year one sold at auction for more than £10,000 after being found among donations to an Oxfam shop.

Mr Madley called up a specialist book auctioneer friend for an estimate.

He asked if it had been "price clipped".

Sometimes book buyers snip the price from the slip cover to hide how much it was bought for.

The 7/6d price was still there, Mr Madley replied.

Mr Madley told BBC Radio Wales Behnaz Akghar: "He said, 'I would put an estimate of between £6,000 and £8,000 on it, that is my guide price'. He said, 'How much did it cost?'

"I said, '£1.50'. He said, 'You're joking'."

On assuring him it was not a joke, Mr Madley was told: "If it came on the open market it could exceed even the high estimate and push on to nearly five figures."

It's unclear whether the book will be sold or whether the owner will keep it, perhaps to leave it in his will to his children.

"Some will say it's better than money in the bank, in which case the owner of this book may decide that he might put it away for 10 years and bring it back on the market then," Mr Madley said.


Very low estimate with a dust-jacket. From listening to the clip, the estimate is from Rupert Powell of Forum Auctions, if the seller does decide to sell then it could end up being sold through them.