Bag the opportunity
Christie’s International Head of Handbags and Accessories, Matthew Rubinger, explores the rise of luxury handbags as a collectors’ item
The first designer handbag ever sold at auction was with Christie’s in 1978. It came from the personal collection of Coco Chanel and was purchased by the Smithsonian Institution – marking the start of a meteoric rise in the popularity of handbags as collectors’ items.
We now treat bags like jewellery – viewing them as high-value luxury accessories.
Demand for handbags has been growing ever since and Christie’s established a department to focus on them in 2010. It’s hardly surprising – some well-known brands sell at auction for between £30,000 and £40,000, and recently a Hermès bag sold for £293,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong.
We now treat bags like jewellery – viewing them as high-value luxury accessories. This is a marked change from the past, when they were often auctioned alongside traditional textiles.
For collectors just starting out, classic brands are the safest option and Hermès in particular has seen an impressive rise in value over the past 30 years. When it comes to newer designers, however, there is more uncertainty over how they’ll perform price-wise, so it’s really about enjoying their creations.
Handbags – particularly the classic brands – have seen their value increase by between 10% and 20% a year. That’s a good return even among luxury items and makes them attractive to collectors and, potentially, investors. But with this kind of investment, it’s usually best to focus on what you love rather than what could make you money.
Buyers across the world have fallen in love with handbags. Christie’s auctions have received telephone bids from over 40 countries around the world. Once again, it’s Hermès that is top of international collectors’ shopping lists.
Those showing an interest in these luxury accessories range from casual shoppers to collectors looking for the ultimate luxury item. People come to us wanting to learn more about the history of the pieces, and are beginning to treat handbags like the very best watches or jewellery.
For those who do consider handbags an investment, though, ‘forecast’ is the key word. They want to understand the value of the piece, the comparable prices from previous auctions and what the future holds for this rapidly growing luxury market.
While it’s not an immediately obvious investment, there is scope for buyers to invest in these luxury handbags. For those looking for a return over a period of time, it might be worth sticking to the classics. But as with all investments, there could be money to be made on some of the riskier choices.
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