How To Buy a Second-Hand Hermès Birkin
The Hermès Birkin. The holy grail of handbags. An entire episode of Sex and the City was devoted to it. Women wait for years on waitlists just for the pleasure of spending over $10,000 for one. And that is just for a small, plain, leather variation of the bag.
We caught up with Matthew Rubinger, the Director of Luxury Accessories at Heritage Auctions which is holding its annual Holiday Luxury auction on December 4, to get the lowdown on the second-hand Hermès market. The auction is chock full of the bags that we dream about—think the best of the best when it comes to Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. Just to show you how intense Hermès Birkin fever is, while we were standing with Rubinger at the auction preview a client came over to seriously, and we mean seriously, scope out the most expensive bag in the sale, a diamond encrusted black crocodile Birkin that could fetch anywhere between $125,000 to $250,000. Hey, if you’ve got it to spend, why not?
It goes without saying that if you are in the market for a second-hand luxury bag, especially one as expensive as a Hermès Birkin, buy it from a reputable dealer (you don’t want to spend big on a fake after all). Rubinger shared with us some of his other top tips to keep in mind when you are getting ready to take the Birkin plunge.
1. Prepare to Spend. Keep in mind that there are really no deals to be had on second-hand Hermès Birkins. Hermès, above and beyond all other luxury brands, holds its value the best after retail, followed by Chanel, followed by Louis Vuitton according to Rubinger. In other words, that $500 Birkin you have been eying at your local vintage store is likely fake.
2. Where There’s Value. While you won’t get a steal on a second-hand Birkin, there is value to be had at auctions, especially in comparison to buying one from a dealer or an online sales site where bags regularly run well over retail. “You are getting fair market value,” Rubinger says, of buying from an auction. For that reason it is worth considering buying a bag in this non-traditional way. “This is just such a new category and even a new market,” Rubinger says of second-hand luxury goods.
3. Collector’s Choice. Unusual color combinations can be particularly appealing to collectors. Limited edition tri-color Birkins can often be worth more in the second-hand market than they are at retail.
4. Keep an Open Mind. “Don’t get your heart set on just one bag,” Rubinger says. To get the best deal be open to a roster of bags in a variety of colors. This holds especially true for auctions, where bidding can very unpredictable.
5. Beyond the Birkin. While Birkins and Kellys tend to get the bulk of the press, unusual Hermès bags oftentimes appeal to serious handbag collectors more (after all, these folks probably already have 10 of those regular old Birkins in the closet). One item in this sale that is generating early buzz is a leather and shearling Kelly clutch muff, that Rubinger attests would be perfect for “New Year’s Eve in Aspen.” Hard to argue with that. Rubinger admits the attention that it has been getting has come as a surprise, “I really didn’t expect it. It’s just so unusual.”
Click through the above gallery to see some highlights from Heritage Auctions Holiday Luxury Auction on December 4 and visit ha.com/luxury for more information.