Investment Handbags

The handbag industry has grown by over 65% in the last few years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Demand for handbags on the resale market has never been higher, and this once small industry is booming. In fact, investing in a handbag is a smart way to spend your money.

The industry

Luxury is synonymous with quality and quality promises longevity. Many of the popular handbag brands such as Hermès, are hand stitched by specially trained artisans, and made from the world’s most luxurious and fine materials. They are built to last and that’s part of the reason they remain staples forever. The same can be said for many of the other luxury brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Over the last few years there has been a substantial rise in demand for preowned designer handbags, with brands such as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton making excellent prices on the resale market. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for a second-hand handbag, and this is one of the reasons why they are becoming such a great investment. In fact, some brands can achieve more at auction than what they are currently retailing for, and those retail prices are increasing year-on-year.

See below Hermès Birkin selling at auction for £15,300.

Why the rise in popularity?

The main reason this industry has soared is because the consumer has gained trust and confidence in buying preloved designer handbags. There are simply more experts and places to buy than ever before. If we look back 10 years, a Hermès handbag going through auction, would have been a single lot at the end of a jewellery sale, it was unusual to see a handbag at auction and they certainly did not warrant their own specialist sale. Now, most auction houses hold their own designer sales with teams of experts in the field.

See below increase in a Kelly handbag in 2007 selling for £400 and in 2023 selling for £7,650.

See below Louis Vuitton and Chanel classic from a sale in Christies 2006 as a group lot and selling for only £480. Now you could expect the LV to make that on its own.

As well as auction there has also been in an increase in online shops and boutiques. There are also handbag spas who specialise in the restoration of luxury handbags, so even one in used condition can be brought back to life.

The preloved industry has seen an increase in popularity over the last few years. One of the reasons for this increase is a desire for people to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as having a more active role in the circular economy. Buying second hand increases the life of a handbag and this keeps fashion out of landfills.

There is also so much more choice for the consumer on the resale market. This is because every season, fashion houses unveil new collections, and stop producing the older models. Anytime you shop directly from a brand, there are a finite number of pieces available for purchase. When buying resale, the consumer can choose from a wide selection of designs and vintage styles. This means access to limited-edition runs, discontinued colours and rare pieces that are no longer available from the labels themselves.

Hermès

As one of the most desired handbag brands in the world, the Hermès Kelly and Birkin make a great investment and are highly collectable. Due to the slow and precise crafting of the bags along with materials and leathers that are difficult to source, only a handful of bags are made by Hermès each year. This limits the ability to purchase new bags directly, hence the extremely lengthy waiting list, if you can even get on one to begin with. These are all factors that make the resale market such a popular place to purchase a Hermès bag; you get an amazing amount of choice and no waiting, and consumers are willing to pay a premium for this.

Look below at the examples of the same bag sold in 2005 £5,760 and 2022 for £11,000.

Kelly and Birkin handbag

Hermès, like many other brands, increase their retail prices at least once a year and when we look at this over their lifespan, we can start to see why they make such good investments. In the 1950’s a standard Kelly bag could have been purchased for $900, by the 60’s the same bag cost $1,300, the 70’s $2,400, the 80’s $4,000, the 90’s $5,100 and at the turn of the century it cost $7,400. Today, that exact bag has increased in value to $10,000 – $15,000. The same increase is seen with Birkin bags with a standard Birkin setting customers back $2,000 in 1980, $2,750 in 1990, $4,000 at the turn of the century, and today they sell for up to $20,000!

On the open market The Kelly and Birkin handbags will often sell for more than their recommended retail price (RRP) and as RRP’s increase, so will the resale price.

Below is a table showing the increases in the Kelly bag.

Below is the table showing the increase in a Birkin bag.

Special Order

Hermès produce a few custom designs each year, also known as Special Order or HSS and are identified by their Horseshoe Stamp. They are only offered to a select number of collectors, and the waiting time can be years before you are invited to purchase one, that is if you are lucky enough to get on the list. They are typically, in the Birkin, Kelly or Constance style and are one off mixes of fabrics, colours, and often bi-colour or tricolour with special hardware. These exclusive designs make a fantastic investment and are very popular on the second-hand market due to their uniqueness.

See below example of a special order.

Exotic skins

Hermès bags made from exotic skins are often in demand the most, with these typically increasing in value at a faster rate than standard skins. Exotic skins include lizard, ostrich, crocodile and alligator.

One of the most exclusive and expensive handbags in the world is the 30cm Himalaya Birkin, made from niloticus crocodile hide and has a subtle gradation in colour from white to grey, said to resemble the snow-capped Himalayas. Seen in the Birkin and Kelly style, the hardware is white gold and pave set with diamonds. These bags are the epitome of luxury and in 2021, one achieved over £400,000 at auction.

A very important thing to remember when purchasing a Hermès exotic skin handbag is to always buy one with its original CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) certificate, this is the passport for the skin.

Colours

Hermès are known for their vibrant and unique colour combinations, however they also have an expert eye for neutral colours and offer a wide spectrum of neutral shades. These are very popular when it comes to the secondary market because they are so versatile when worn and remain timeless, however they also offer some fabulous brightly coloured versions, which are also very popular.

See below price example of Hermès handbag at auction.

Chanel

The demand for Chanel handbags and the lack of supply in most boutiques has led to the resale market rising at the same rate as retail prices.

Chanel increased their prices again in March this year (2023) with the ever-popular Chanel Classic Flap Bag increasing by 16%, making its new retail price more than £8,500, up from £7,250 earlier this year. Some other models increased by 14% and increases are expected to continue throughout the year.

The price of a Chanel handbag has steadily gained momentum since 2008 with prices accelerating faster over the last 5 years. Global demand for Chanel is high and despite their steady increase in prices, demand hasn’t fallen as evidenced by the strong resale market.

Let’s look back, in 1955 the Chanel 2.55 first sold for around £150 and currently retails for £8,530.

See below example of the 2.55.

The Chanel Classic Flap was first released in 1983 and sold for about £600 and now retails for £8,500.

A medium Chanel Boy Bag has increased from £3,600 in 2018 to £5,580 today and similarly the Wallet on Chain from £1,600 in 2018 to £3,210 today (2023).

See below example of the Chanel Boy Bag.

Chanel retail locations are still supply constrained and the classic bags are regularly sold out, this only fuels the demand on the resale market.

Resale prices for Chanel are also at record levels and pristine bags are in high demand. Collectors are looking for rare bags from previous seasons and sold-out new styles like the 2022 CC “In Love” Chanel Heart Bag.

Below is an example of a Chanel Classic exceeding its sale estimate.

Here is an example of a Chanel handbag selling at auction in 2003 for only $200.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton also can make a great investment!

Their classic designs are timeless, for example the Louis Vuitton Speedy, first released in the 1930’s, is a great handbag that can be purchased for under £1,000 on the resale market.

Other classic models that are very popular include the Alma, Keepall and Pochette.

See below examples of an LV going through auction.

See below Limited-Edition Louis Vuitton Speedy selling for $2,500 at auction.

See below Limited-Edition selling at auction.

The very best investment pieces by LV are the Limited-Edition versions.

While Marc Jacobs was creative director for LV he partnered with Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and Yoyoi Kusama to create Limited-Edition bags that remain highly sought-after in the secondary market (see three examples below).

Conclusion

With styles of Hermès making six figure sums, and auctions selling handbags totalling over £1.34 million in a single sale, now is a great time to review your handbag’s value, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Posted in Clothing and Accessories, News.