At a recent auction at Christie’s in Hong Kong, a Himalayan Birkin luxury handbag by Hermès created a buyers' frenzy. Selling for $300,168, it was billed as “the most valuable handbag in the world” ever to be sold at auction. This sale surpassed the previous record of $228,480 set last year, also a Birkin by Hermes, in fuchsia pink crocodile skin. Prior to that the record was set in 2011, when another Hermes Birkin, but in rouge-red crocodile skin sold for $202,585.
This record sale in June 2016, celebrated Christie’s Hong Kong 30th anniversary, so the best ever value of this luxury handbag set the scene. In fact, over the two days of the auction at Christie’s, 200 handbag lots were included — more than half of them were Birkins — and handbag sales for the two days totaled an amazing $5,044,890.
Picture: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times
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One of the auction’s features was the 12-inch Hermès Birkin matte Himalayan crocodile handbag, with white-gold hardware set with 245 diamonds weighing close to 10 carats. With a pre-sale estimate of $190,000 to $260,000, auctioneers were delighted at the results.
The seller of the record bag was a private collector who had owned the unused Birkin since 2008. It is believed that only one or two of these bags are produced by Hermès each year bag and to find one in an unused condition is very rare.
Christie’s holds twice-yearly handbag and accessory auctions in Hong Kong, alongside its more traditional sales. The client base for the luxury handbag market is split between Asia and Europe, with many repeat customers. However, Asia’s affluent customers are quickly fueling demand. Many of the Hong Kong auction bidders are from mainland China, with a few also from Japan and Taiwan
To many of us, it may seem ludicrous to treat a luxury handbag as an investment, but for a Birkin lover they are both a fashion accessory and an asset. Some collectors may own as many as 50 bags or more! Emily Chan, admits “Birkins are like currency: You can cash out any time”.
For the past 35 years, the Birkin have been rising in price even performing better than gold. In fact, Birkins have climbed in value by 500% in the last 35 years, an increase expected to double in the next 10 years, according to baghunter.com which is an online platform for buying and selling a luxury handbag.
People are always looking for a luxury handbag that is unique. There is just something about owning a branded luxury handbag and can be likened to owning a Mercedes-Benz: When drive a Merc it just sounds different, feels different and smells different to a Toyota. That is what these customers know and buy into.
And as handbags become more definitely traceable, and their value continues to increase, more collectors are seeing them as an asset. Even those who do not intend to sell see the ever increasing value of a truly unique luxury handbag. So who says now that a luxury handbag is not a good investment?