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So, at the beginning of Harry Potter, Harry is found to have a large vault of gold at Gringotts. Where did all of that money come from? What did James (I assume it came from him, as Lily was muggle-born, and they were both young) do to get all of that cash?

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Life insurance? –  Kyralessa Apr 30 '11 at 22:09
I imagine that what might seem a meager net worth to an adult might seem like a fortune to a child. –  Sam May 1 '11 at 1:11
Does the book mention (I can't recall) whether the amount of money is larger than other wizardly families have? –  Tony Meyer May 1 '11 at 1:30
@Tony: It's definitely a fair bit more than the Weasley's, but aside from that, I don't think they mentioned it. It seems like it's enough money to be fairly well off for a kid, I suspect it'd be around $250-500K or so USD. A good amount of money, more than most people have in savings, but not enough to be idle. Of course, I have no references to cite for that... –  PearsonArtPhoto May 1 '11 at 1:32
I was wondering if all pure-blood wizardly families would have the same amount of money (i.e. it was normal for wizards, a lot for muggles). However, the Weasleys indeed don't fit with that. –  Tony Meyer May 1 '11 at 4:56

8 Answers 8

up vote 90 down vote accepted

Harry's money came from inheritance from his father, James.

James was independently wealthy (from family money) when he left Hogwarts, sufficiently such that he was able to support himself, Sirius, and Lily as full-time (unpaid) fighters for the Order of the Phoenix. Beyond that, there is no information as to where James's wealth came from or what his parents (Harry's paternal grandparents) did for a living or how they made their money.

Source : JKR Interview by a 14-year-old boy named Owen Jones who won the chance in 2005 to interview her.

Q: Where does he [Harry] get his money? He always seems to have some. Does he have a bank account? Where is it? Where's his money?

JKR: Well, as you know, Harry's bank account is in Gringotts. His money came from inheritance, from his father. But I think, on a deeper level... [On the one hand,] Harry's money never really is that important in the books, except that he can afford his uniform and so on. [On the other hand,] I think I really gave him a fortune because I was so broke when I wrote the first book and it was wishful thinking that I would not have to worry about such things.

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As for where did the money come from James' family, I'd like to point out that James would be Ignotus' descendant, and it is said that Ignotus himself created the perfect invisibility cloak. I'd expect that such a genius can make money easily :). –  Voldemort Dec 29 '12 at 4:49
What kind of expenses would a wizarding household have anyway? No electric bills, probably wouldn't need plumbing. So, food, rent (mortgage?), potion making / other wizarding supplies? –  DLeh Jun 19 '14 at 17:58
It also seems pretty ironic to me that any Hogwarts graduate would be a competent wizard, interested in wealth, and NOT able to think of a way to accumulate at least a small fortune relatively easily. –  Dronz Dec 25 '14 at 19:08

From an earlier interview by J.K.Rowling:

Q: What did James and Lily Potter do when they were alive?

JKR: Well, I can't go into too much detail, because you're going to find out in future books. But James inherited plenty of money, so he didn't need a well-paid profession. You'll find out more about both Harry's parents later.

It is not very clear how much is left, because James needed to support Lupin as well:

Jo related the fact that Remus Lupin, prior to the third book, was unemployable because he was a werewolf, and upon his graduation from Hogwarts, along with James and Lily, was supported by James using their own money. In addition to this, she shed more light on the early days of the Order, saying James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were full time Order members. "Full Time Fighters," as Jo put it.
- J. K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall, 2007

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It's never really explained where the money that's left to Harry comes from. His grandparents on both sides are apparently dead before the start of the first book, possibly at the hands of the Death Eaters.

It's said in the book and the movie by Hagrid, "you didn't really think your parents would leave you with nothin'?" Again, it's not clear what James and Lily did for a living, if they ever did have to work for a living (maybe James was indeed independently wealthy; he's cocky enough as a kid to be an heir), but if they did work, they'd probably have some sort of retirement fund they'd been socking away toward, which would pass to Harry as next of kin.

Although the financial system of the Potterverse isn't covered in-depth, it would also be easy to imply that Gringott's pays interest on any gold they're allowed to make use of in loans; some vaults are like safe deposit boxes, while others are more like ordinary bank accounts. Gringotts is a business like anything else; I doubt the goblins love gold so much they'd work for free just to be around it. Behold the wonders of compound interest accrued over 10 years on a nest egg that is never touched.

Anyway, what was left to Harry is enough that Harry's time in school is financially comfortable, but it's by no means extravagant; he didn't buy his own Firebolt, for instance. It only looks like a lot compared to what the Weasleys live on; working in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office doesn't pay much, obviously, and the Weasleys have had six kids. The Malfoys, on the other hand, are the evil Rockefellers; so much money that Lucius thinks nothing of buying Draco's way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team.

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Harry is a descendant of the Peverells, an ancient and magically powerful family (and so, potentially rich, like the Malfoys). He inherited the invisibility cloak that belonged to Ignotus, so presumably any family fortune would also have been passed down from parent to child.

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It's also possible that some of the money came from rewards for capturing Death Eaters during the first war with Voldemort.

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Uh? Is there any canon source for this? –  DVK May 17 '14 at 15:31

Xenophilius Lovegood says in book 7 that anyone who possesses the Invisibility Cloak (Third Deathly Hollow) would be unbelievably rich. As the cloak was handed down from Ignotus Peverell through his wizarding line over the years, the family accumulated money, which was handed down to James as an only child and then Harry as an only child.

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You should add the specific quote from the book. –  Moogle Mar 12 '14 at 17:13

To someone's earlier answer about how he didn't buy his Firebolt, the only reason he didn't was that he didn't want to waste a big chunk of the money he would need to get through five more years at Hogwarts.

The money he was left from his parents came from his dad's side of the family, for they were really wealthy. When Sirius died he left Harry all of his possessions, including his own great wealth from being the sole heir to the Black family fortune.

Sirius bought Harry the Firebolt as a present to make up for the missing 13 birthdays. It also had a more significant meaning behind it because for Harry's 1st birthday Sirius had bought him a little toy broomstick for wizard kids to hover around on.

But both the Potters and the Blacks were extremely wealthy purebloods and since James was an only child, he inherited it all. Since Sirius was the only living child at the time of his mother's death, he inherited it in turn. So when Harry finally inherited the money and possessions of both families he was considered extremely wealthy by wizard standards; probably close to, if not more than, the Malfoys.

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Can we lose the stream of consciousness with some punctuation, please? –  wbogacz Jul 16 '13 at 23:19
Welcome to the site. WOW ! @wbogacz has a legitimate concern. I see only one period in the whole answer. Very difficult to read through and don't think it's fair to look for someone else to edit and parse into meaningful sentences. –  Stan Jul 17 '13 at 0:33
Actually I believe that Sirus wasn't the only living child. Since his two cousins were still alive when he was alive. Tonks and Beatrix. Also Mrs. Malfoy as well. Sirus was the only direct MALE line child. The other one Regulas died under mysterious circumstances. –  Anne Charming Jan 31 at 2:41

It never really mentions how come Harry Potter has so much money, but James Potter inherited a lot of money from his parents and no doubt Sirius Black's relations are rich. I think they provided Harry Potter with enough money for "comfortable living" given Harry has no siblings or other members of family to share his parent's money with. JKR also mentions that the Dursleys, highly wealthy by themselves, would readily take all the money in his vault, in TPS:

The Dursleys couldn't have known about this or they'd have had it from him faster than blinking.

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I seem to remember the novels have a specific statement to the effect that Harry didn't believe the Dursley's aversion to everything magical would extend to a pile of gold. I can't find that statement now though. –  b_jonas Dec 29 '12 at 17:25
@b_jonas I'll confirm its there, having just read it, though I can't find it either at the moment, I'm fairly sure you've got it nearly word for word. –  balanced mama Jan 4 '13 at 3:43

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