Harry's wand cost only 7 Galleons:

He paid seven gold Galleons for his wand

However, we know wands contain very rare materials: Dragon heartstring, Unicorn hair, Phoenix feather.

For making a wand you need to be an expert in wandlore, a really difficult subject. Then you need to get to a right tree, bribe a Bowtruckle for some wood, put some magic into it, and add the core. It would be extremely hard to catch a dragon, and even harder to kill it. You need at least 20 people for that, as demonstrated in GOF. Phoenixes are extremely rare animals, and the only Phoenix we know about gave only 2 feathers. and unicorns- that's also dangerous. Ollivander says:

Containing a single hair from the tail of a particularly fine male unicorn...must have been seventeen hands; nearly gored me with his horn after I plucked his tail.

For ultimate proof- Slughorn says he can sell a hair of a unicorn for 10 Galleons.

Not long after this, Hagrid became tearful again and pressed the whole unicorn tail upon Slughorn, who pocketed it with cries of, "To friendship! To generosity! To ten Galleons a hair!"

If Ollivander uses one hair for a wand, how would the wand cost less than the hair?

Wands sound like really rare objects... But

thousands of narrow boxes piled neatly right up to the ceiling.

Each of the thousands of wands would be really rare and hard to make and they cost only 7 galleons. I'm really surprised Harry doesn't carry a few wands as they are really cheap for such rare materials. But that's another question.

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    Government support? Wand sellers are provided funds to operate much like Dairy farmers?
    – Jontia
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 9:25
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    Maybe wands are actually far more expensive for anybody other than world-famous boy wizards who just happen to have been selected by the twin of the wand of the most evil dark wizard out there? I mean, Ron has to use Charlie's old wand, and only after Arthur wins the big cash price (plus the old one being willow-whomped) he gets a new one. Granted, the Weasleys are supposed to be extremely poor, but at an exchange rate of 5 quid per galleon, a 7ʛ wand costs 35 pounds, which should still be affordable for something the kid is arguably going to be using for the rest of his life.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 9:58
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    A hair from a horses tail is quite long, if you divided it up you may get 2 or 3 wand lengths out of one.
    – mwarren
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 10:01
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    Prices can also vary with time and location - maybe from first to sixth book it becomes more dangerous to get unicorn hair, so the suppliers raise their wages; or maybe Slughorn knows there's a demand for unicorn hair in some country where unicorns do not appear naturally (I'd assume that in wizarding world wand components are a strategic resource not unlike oil or even fissile materials). Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 10:08
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    All this assumes that Ollivander is an economically rational actor. Given his somewhat unworldly mien and focus on wandlore its likely that he just doesn't care about the money as long as he has enough to live on and learn more about wands. Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


You've fundamentally over-estimated the potential cost of the materials required to make a wand.

In terms of the cores that Ollivander prefers, dragon heartstrings are likely to be relatively inexpensive if bought from the right (overseas) suppliers and unicorn hair and phoenix feathers can be picked up for free if one knows the correct locations. Similarly, the wood used is fairly mundane and can be obtained at no cost, merely requiring the collector to know what to look for, or by purchasing it from specialist providers.

Wand cores

Dragon Heartstring

Although dragon-breeding is outlawed in Britain, it seems to be pretty common overseas. Dragons themselves are not hard to breed (if one follows the appropriate instructions and has somewhere fireproof to keep them) and it seems likely that their heartstrings are simply a commodity item since they can be bred "for pleasure and profit".

‘Well, I’ve bin doin’ some readin’,’ said Hagrid, pulling a large book from under his pillow. ‘Got this outta the library – Dragon-Breeding for Pleasure and Profit – it’s a bit outta date, o’ course, but it’s all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, ’cause their mothers breathe on ’em, see, an’ when it hatches, feed it on a bucket o’ brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An’ see here – how ter recognise diff’rent eggs – what I got there’s a Norwegian Ridgeback. They’re rare, them.’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Unicorn Hair

Although unicorn hair is apparently quite expensive to purchase commercially, it's relatively easy to get hold of if you have ready access to a unicorn forest. It's likely that wand-makers would know this trick.

Hagrid’s face darkened and Harry knew why: Tom Riddle had contrived to have Hagrid thrown out of school, blamed for opening the Chamber of Secrets. Slughorn, however, did not seem to be listening; he was looking up at the ceiling, from which a number of brass pots hung, and also a long, silky skein of bright white hair.
‘That’s never unicorn hair, Hagrid?’
‘Oh, yeah,’ said Hagrid indifferently. ‘Gets pulled out of their tails, they catch it on branches an’ stuff in the Forest, yeh know …’
‘But my dear chap, do you know how much that’s worth?’
‘I use it fer bindin’ on bandages an’ stuff if a creature gets injured,’ said Hagrid, shrugging. ‘It’s dead useful … very strong, see.’

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Phoenix feathers

It's not really clear how many phoenixes there are in the wild, but they appear to shed their entire plumage at least once every month or two, meaning that any nesting area would be positively covered in feathers that can be harvested.

He wasn’t alone after all. Standing on a golden perch behind the door was a decrepit-looking bird which resembled a half-plucked turkey. Harry stared at it and the bird looked balefully back, making its gagging noise again. Harry thought it looked very ill. Its eyes were dull and, even as Harry watched, a couple more feathers fell out of its tail.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Wand Woods

Similarly, the wood materials (oak, apple, ash, etc) are all pretty mundane, even if it takes a skilled eye to spot which are sufficiently magical to be used in wands.

Only a minority of trees can produce wand quality wood (just as a minority of humans can produce magic). It takes years of experience to tell which ones have the gift, although the job is made easier if Bowtruckles are found nesting in the leaves, as they never inhabit mundane trees.

Wand Woods by J.K. Rowling

It would appear that some wandmakers (possibly including Ollivander) also use wood sourced from farms that grow magically endowed wood.

Business Costs

Ollivander doesn't rely on commercial dealers. He appears to collect his own supplies (at basically no cost).

‘Ah, now, this is one of mine, isn’t it?’ said Mr Ollivander, with much more enthusiasm, as Cedric handed over his wand. ‘Yes, I remember it well. Containing a single hair from the tail of a particularly fine male unicorn … must have been seventeen hands; nearly gored me with his horn after I plucked his tail. Twelve and a quarter inches … ash … pleasantly springy. It’s in fine condition … you treat it regularly?’

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

He's also probably supplementing his income by selling any unused materials back into the general marketplace. His primary costs are likely to be the time needed to craft the wands, however much he pays himself plus wear and tear on his tools and equipment and the cost of running his shop, all of which could well be pretty marginal, especially if he's careful with his equipment and owns (and lives in) the shop.

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    The only thing you're missing is labour cost.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 19:59
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    Your unicorn hair answer doesn't make sense. If someone can collect unicorn hair and sell it for 10 Galleons, as is, why would they, instead, add their labor and other raw materials to sell for 7 Galleons? Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:11
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    @DeanMacGregor - For precisely the same reason that deBeers can sell a diamond for a hundred pounds that cost them pennies to mine, because they know where to look. An experienced wandmaker would either be collecting it themselves (which we know Ollivander does) or at worst buying in bulk (with the discount that that usually implies)
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:12
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    Possible explanations...1. Slughorn is wrong or exaggerating about what he can get for unicorn hair. 2. The people paying 10 for hair expect a length far in excess of what is required for a wand such that a single hair worth 10 Galleons could be cut up for multiple wands. 3. There's a wand subsidy to defray the cost of wands relative to their raw materials Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:14
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    @Valorum your analogy doesn't work here. The 10 Galleon quote for unicorn hairs is what Slughorn can get for them not what they cost retail or wholesale. If anything the wholesale cost would be in excess of that. By analogy, if I bring in some old diamonds to sell to a jeweler I'm going to get less than they go for wholesale. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:17

The upfront cost is large, but economies of scale prevail. Along with good networking.

  • A Dragon heart is probably huge and will supply many many wands (100 cores? 1000? It's hard to know). This is arguably the hardest to acquire and the largest money sink, the other two wand cores make up for this though1.
  • You may also find a unicorn could be willing to give up whole bundles of hair if Ollivander knows a particularly friendly unicorn, (and they grow back). I do not imagine a unicorn being sympathetic to Slughorn, nor his clientele, which explains his pricing.
  • The instances of phoenixes donating feathers aren't to wand makers either, and if you plucked a very friendly bird, before it reached old age you could have a harmless yet potentially infinite supply.

Not everyone has the skill or luxury of establishing the connections required, but once Ollivander does so, there is likely little need for ongoing costs for the cores.

As for the wood, one needn't get it from a tree with Bowtruckles, but even if you did the bribe of woodlice is exceptionally cheap. The crustacean required by bowtruckles are ubiquitous in the same locations as the trees will be in.

The rest is labour and planning

Ollivander is self employed, and has all the time he needs outside of running the shop to make as many wands as he wants. He doesn't need to pay anyone by the hour, even himself. Even ignoring Rowling Maths for the number of students, so long as he keeps a large backlog of wands he should have one which will choose his current customer.

This would be very different if he had to make custom wands for people, then he has less control over when he makes the wands, and it may start eating into his shop time and be more time critical.

Even if each wand takes 2 hours to make, and he needs to make 100/year that's 200 hours of labour give or take. About 5 weeks of work, which can be done during term time. The time taken to make a want would need to be 10x larger for it approach an unmanageable amount of time.

All of this ignores any subsidies from the government or hogwarts. And even a meagre subsistence may be enough to satisfy Ollivander, who hardly lives a life of luxury.

1. Backed up by this answer, which references pottermore

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    @computercarguy I don't know the minimum requirements for shaping a wand, but I've done some woodworking and I can't imagine it's more than 20hs/wand for a standard wand. The main point is that so long as he has a rolling stock of wands, the pressure/time sink to make ~100 wands a year in a batch is not that great.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 19:27
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    @computercarguy Wouldn't forming a wand be pretty quick work on a lathe? Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 19:43
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    @WayneConrad, that depends entirely on what you are starting with. If you have a fairly cylindrical piece of wood to start with, then it's not so bad, but if you are starting with a branch, you have to cut that down to approx wand size, then clamp it and remove the edges. This also assumes none of them break in the lathe. A branch doesn't have a straight grain, like a dowel does. It would also have knots, which could catch on a tool. You also still have to break open and and hollow the wand to insert the "whatever", then glue it back together, sand, and finish. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 19:49
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    I was literally going to say magic.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:02
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    @Valorum someone had to make the first wand though...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:30

For the Phoenix feather question, remember that the wand chooses the wizard not the other way around. Also remember that the wand Harry ends up with has been sitting in inventory for quite some time leading us to the possible conclusion that the wand didn't want anyone. Remember that just because something is rare doesn't mean it is valuable. It needs to be rare relative to demand. If the implied demand for Phoenix feather wands is low, that is to say if Phoenix feather wands are too picky about the wizard they choose then it would explain that the rarity is due to a lack of need for Phoenix feather wands.

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    While this addresses phoenix feathers it doesn't address the other types of cores. A good answer should be complete as possible.
    – Skooba
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 20:54
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    However, we don't know the prices of other types of wands. It'd certainly be an odd transaction where you go to a shop to buy something and, (a) actually that something decides that you are buying it (or not) and (b) it can have very different costs. Still, these wizards seem to find it normal.
    – Ángel
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 0:41
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    @Ángel i'm imagining a real world equivalent where you have cars picking their owners at a used car lot. the oh-so-honest salesman saying "oh what bad luck, looks like the car that chose you is the junker with 200k miles that leaks oil. Unfortunately it costs $40,000 because it <checks notes> has a unicorn hair."
    – eps
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 22:57
  • @eps well just because one wand chooses a wizard that doesn't mean no other wands will if the wizard doesn't like, or can't afford, that one. Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 23:35

Assuming that the wand raw material cost are correct (in the long-term average, I'd expect some business as Ollivanders to keep some stock-keeping) -

one can witness exactly the same effect (costly ingredients, but comparatively inexpensive product) in other worlds, too. It happens when repetitive crafting causes development in personal craftsmanship.

For example in "World of Warcraft" with its auction system for variable market-determined pricing: you will find an abundance of players

  1. buying rare raw materials for amount X,
  2. crafting to advance their skills, and then
  3. selling the product for amount Y, where very often X>Y, just to diminish their purchasing cost.

From this it invariably follows that Ollivander might be up to something different.

I'm not accusing (yet), but obviously he isn't selling wands to earn a living (or for profit), but for increasing personal skills... possibly to work on a top-secret backyard magic project, which requires an insane level of skill. If I were an Auror (which I will neither confirm nor deny), I'd say we should inconspicuously investigate. Thanks for bringing that to our attention, @MBEllis.

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    By my estimation he sells approximately £63,000 worth of stock per annum. Assuming he owns the shop and lives above it, that would be a reasonable annual income for an independent businessman who is spending little or nothing on the materials they are then selling to the public.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 15:52
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    @Valorum you made me look for the exchange rates :) Yes I'd say your estimation is feasible.
    – jvb
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 16:01
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/236632/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 16:02

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