The bitcoin of fashion: Designer bags selling for thousands at auction

They say you can never have too many bags or shoes, especially if they boast tags from Hermes, Chanel, Christian Dior, Gucci or Louis Vuitton. And if you just so happen to own a Hermes “Kelly” or “Birkin”, it’s money in the bank – or in the closet at least.

Bought by young professionals or the more mature shopper, those two bags are – according to Andrew Shapiro, managing director of Shapiro Auctioneers – “heading north” in terms of price. Shapiro recently sold a Birkin bag in green lizard at auction for nearly $37,000 (including buyer’s premium).

A Hermes forest green lizard ‘Kelly’ Sellier bag, estimated to be worth between $30,000 and $40,000.Credit:Shapiro Auctioneers

“The exotic leathers, such as alligator or ostrich, tend to fetch the highest prices. But even a Hermes leather bag commands between $8000 and $12,000,” says Shapiro, who holds three ‘luxury’ auctions – which include bags and accessories – every year.

Shapiro has been selling a number of designer bags from the one estate over several auctions. This estate in NSW was endowed with over 2000 Hermes bags, as well as 300 Hermes ties. There were also Hermes gardening tools in the mix.

“I was told that the owner went into Hermes every second day to make her acquisitions,” says Shapiro.

These bags can be compared to the bitcoin of fashion – how far they head north is anyone’s guess.

When it comes to discerning the real from the fake, Shapiro suggests looking at the little brass feet on a Hermes bag. “If they’re screwed on and can easily be removed rather than actually piercing the leather, it’s a fake,” he says.

Chanel shoulder bags have also been extremely popular on the secondary market. A classic style from the 1960s with interwoven chains could be yours for between $4000 and $6000 at auction, with the larger Channel bags selling for over $10,000.

“The condition of a designer bag is paramount, along with its identification, stamped on the inside of a bag,” adds Shapiro, who recalls once selling a Hermes Birkin for $60,000 to a London buyer.

A Louis Vuitton Pegase Legere 55, worth around $5000.Credit:Shapiro Auctioneers

But those who aren’t prepared to part with $60,000 for a bag (let’s face it, that’s most people) might be more comfortable purchasing a vintage designer bag for $1500. At Hawkeye Vintage, an online business in South Yarra, Melbourne, this amount will get you a Bottega Veneta bag – considerably less than the bag would be sold for in the retail environment.

“We’ve seen the rise in popularity with the Bottega Veneta bag, both here and overseas,” says Danielle Goodwin, director of Hawkeye Vintage, who has seen increased interest in designer bags since she established her business six years ago.

“Because we’re online, most of our customers are from Europe, Japan, America and South-East Asia,” she says. Fendi’s “Baguette”, a sequinned bag popularised by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, is highly desirable, selling at Hawkeye Vintage for around the $3000 mark.

Roxy is an avid collector of designer bags. She purchased her first Hermes Birkin, a 35-inch black bag with silver hardware, when she was in her mid-20s.

“Back then you would be paying around $18,000 for a 35-inch,” says Roxy, who sees the Birkin and Kelly bags as the ultimate status symbol. “I looked at people with them and saw success.”

Roxy sees them as investment pieces – and estimates her collection of designer bags could be the cost of an apartment and keeps her most valuable bags in a bank vault. “To be candid, I love the chase of how hard they are to get.”

For Shapiro, who regularly sees these objects of desire come up at auction, designer bags can be compared to the bitcoin of fashion – how far they head north is anyone’s guess.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

Stephen Crafti is a specialist in contemporary design, including architecture, furniture, fashion and decorative arts.

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