Bringin' Home the Birkin: Investing in Luxury Hermès Handbags
A vintage Hermès bag can sell for tens of thousands of dollars, but is it a good investment?
Updated Oct 25, 2022
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- Hermès Birkin bags are one of the most recognized fashion icons and a hot investment asset.
- A Himalaya 30 Birkin sold for a dazzling $226,180 in 2021.
- You can invest in shares of Hermès bags for less than $20 on collectible investment platforms.
“It’s not a bag, it’s a Birkin.”
The iconic line from Sex and the City is a testament to the popularity of the Hermès brand's most exclusive handbag. The Birkin bag is a coveted fashion icon once rumored to have a five-year waiting list. A 2016 study found that, on average, Birkin bags increased in value by 14.2% annually between 1980 and 2015—well above the S&P 500’s average annual return of 8.65%.
Birkin bags have one of the highest resale values of designer handbags.
So does that mean you should invest in a Birkin bag? Get your best Sunday suit out as we step into the fashion world of luxury designer Hermès.
A history of Hermès and the Birkin bag
A history of Hermès and the Birkin bag
The Hermès brand began in 1837 when Thierry Hermès opened a harness workshop in Paris. His harnesses were designed for the upper classes of Europe, and his work received an award at the Universal Exhibition in 1867.
In 1880, Thierry’s son Charles-Émile Hermès opened a retail shop selling high-end harnesses and saddles and turned the brand into a household name. In the 1920s, the brand moved to other wearable items, such as men’s ready-to-wear garments, jewelry, and luxury watches.
But it wasn’t until the 1950s that the Hermès became the brand we know today. In 1951, Charles-Émile handed over the reins to his sons-in-law, including Robert Dumas. Under Dumas’s leadership, the brand took off with its signature silk scarves and Kelly bag.
In the 1980s, a surprise encounter between the then-chief executive of Hermès, Jean-Louise Dumas, and actress Jane Birkin resulted in the creation of the iconic Birkin bag, which debuted in 1984.
Today the Birkin and other Hermès bags are probably some of the most recognized handbags in the fashion world and coveted collectibles among investors, largely due to their resell value.
Types of Hermès bags to invest in
Types of Hermès bags to invest in
While the Birkin handbag is probably the most famous Hermès bag to invest in, it’s not the only bag they offer. Here are some other bags the luxury brand offers that may go up in value:
The Birkin Bag
Birkin bags have one of the highest resale values of designer handbags, largely due to their scarcity and craftsmanship. Each Birkin bag is handcrafted by a single artisan and takes at least 18 hours to make. A new bag can cost anywhere from $8,500 to $300,000.
You can’t just walk into a Hermès store and buy a Birkin. While there's no longer a waiting list for a Birkin bag, stock varies from store to store, and there’s little notice about when certain styles will be available. And the brand usually only sells to clients who have a purchase history with Hermès.
If you want to buy a Birkin bag as an investment, you can stick with either traditional designs like black or beige or invest in more exotic designs like crocodile skin or a limited edition Sellier Faubourg.
Chart tracking sale prices of assets similar to Hermès 20cm Sellier Faubourg Birkin from June 2020 to May 2022 (not adjusted for inflation).
The Kelly was one of the first Hermès made and is often considered the older sister of the Birkin. It was a favorite of actress-turned-royalty Grace Kelly. The Princess of Monaco was credited with popularizing this handbag, and it was renamed 'the Kelly' in her honor.
There are two styles of the Kelly: the Sellier and the Retourne. The Sellier has stitching on the outside, while the Routurne is stitched from the inside and has softer edges. Kelly bags tend to retail slightly cheaper than Birkin bags, but can resell for more depending on the bag.
Chart tracking sale prices of assets similar to Hermès 35cm Picnic Kelly from Nov. 2012 to Jan. 2022 (not adjusted for inflation).
The Herbag is made from canvas and trimmed with cowhide leather. It was designed in 2000 and has a more modern look than other Hermès bags. It comes in three sizes and a range of colored leather and canvas combinations. Retailing for around $3,000, the Herbag isn’t as popular a handbag as it is an investment, but some can auction for tens of thousands of dollars.
Limited edition pegasus pop canvas and black leather Herbag 31 sold for nearly $12,000 at Christie's in Nov. 2020.
The preferred handbag of Jackie Kennedy, this was designed in 1959 and is both elegant and practical. Secured with an H clasp, it’s named after the daughter of Catherine Chaillet, the bag’s designer. Like the other Hermès bags, it comes in several different hardware and material combinations.
With a retail price of $8,000 to $10,000, more rare Constance bags can go for $30,000 to $55,000 at auction.
A blue crocodile mini Constance with white gold and diamond hardware sold for $154,000 at Christie's in June 2021.
Is a vintage Hermès bag worth investing in?
A pre-owned Hermès bag can go for thousands of dollars above its retail price, depending on the type and condition of the bag. Over the years, the value of Hermès bags increased both in retail and at resale.
A Birkin, if you didn’t already guess, is the crème de la crème of designer bags. Originally at a retail price of $2,000 ($5,713.34 adjusted for inflation), these bags go for $10,000 on average today.
One of the most expensive Birkin bags ever sold was a Himalaya 30 that went for a dazzling $226,180 at Sotheby’s in July 2021, while a Himalaya Kelly sold for $345,000 in September 2022.
While classic Hermès Birkin or Kelly bags can fetch astonishing prices, it’s often more exotic pieces like the Himalaya—crafted from Nile crocodile hide—that sell for the highest prices at auction.
Would you buy a Birkin?
How to invest in Hermès handbags
Because a Birkin bag is so exclusive and difficult to buy in-store, many investors opt to buy vintage Hermès bags through secondhand dealers and auction houses like Sotheby’s or Christie’s. Other vintage Hermès bags, like the Kelly, can also be bought through reputable resellers.
Be wary of fake bags, as there are many counterfeit Birkins. Ensure the stamping on the bag is even, and always check that there is an authenticity card.
Black calf leather Birkin Bag trading on Public with a market cap of over $43K.
For example, you can invest in eight types of vintage Hermès bags with Rally. Besides luxury handbags, they also offer fractional shares of other popular collectibles, like vintage guitars, rare collectible coins, and even dinosaur bones. Best of all, they handle storage and managing assets, so you can invest without worrying about keeping your Birkin bag or other collectibles secure.
If owning handbags isn’t your thing, you can invest directly in the Hermès company through a stockbroker. Hermès is a publicly traded company in France, and the luxury brand has had a rather stellar few years, even as other retail brands have struggled.