The world’s first group of indexes tracking the fair market value of collectable handbags is being published in a new report by Art Market Research (AMR) today.

The suite of indexes, featured in AMR’s Luxury Handbag Report 2020, takes a closer look at the burgeoning market for collectable handbags, a category which is doing so well it outperformed art, classic cars and even knocked rare whisky off its number one position as an investment of passion this year.

AMR uses price information – collated from auction houses located all around the world – to measure the performance of selected Hermès Kelly, Hermès Birkin bags, CHANEL and Louis Vuitton bags. AMR’s index methodology was devised in association with the London School of Economics.

Sebastian Duthy, CEO of Art Market Research, explains:

“The secondary market for handbags has become so popular that some new bags sourced in store are being sold on at auction for up to two and a half times retail price. We’ve been able to analyse sales data from the last 10 years and speak to the world’s leading experts, to provide unbiased insights on collecting luxury handbags.”

The report cites that in 2019 alone, more than 3,700 designer handbags sold for £26.4 million at auctions around the world and it is estimated that thousands more sold online via luxury resellers.

Sebastian Duthy adds:

“This is the fastest growing collectors’ area and it’s the first time that women are running the category. From the results of the index, it’s clearly evident that they are a force to be reckoned with.”

Rachel Koffsky, head of Christie’s handbag department, was interviewed with other auction experts as part of the report. She cites that she has such a diverse collector pool,

“ranging from younger women who are looking for their first CHANEL bag to very serious collectors who have been collecting for 20 years plus and every year sell two to buy three.”

As a result of client demand, Christie’s now host seven live and online auctions each year, in Asia, the US and the UK and other auction houses are following in their footsteps.

As well as sharing the index, The Luxury Handbag Report 2020 takes a closer look at the market, the brands in demand, and charts the prices achieved for the star performing bags including Hermès Himalaya Birkin, Hermès So Black Birkin, Hermès Picnic Kelly, CHANEL GST1 and Louis Vuitton 2008 Stephen Sprouse Speedy.

Highlights from Art Market Research’s Luxury Handbag Report 2020 include:
  • 2019 was a record year for rare Hermès handbags. Eye-watering prices were secured for rare Hermès handbags, with one bag increasing 300 per cent in a matter of months (So Black £50,000, Christie’s London – in June 2019). Other record breakers include a 30cm Matte White Crocodile Himalaya (sold for £100,000, Christie’s London in November), Picnic Kelly (sold for £51,000, Christies New York in June).
  • 2020 started off with another record for an Hermès Ombre Lizard Birkin ($137,000 at Sotheby’s online, March 2020) which is 50 per cent higher than the previous record in 2018.
  • Sales of Hermès Birkin & Kelly ‘New bags’ – handbags purchased in store and immediately resold in near-new condition – command the highest prices at auction. Hermès first produced the Himalaya Birkin in 2009 and several of the bags bought from Hermès have been immediately consigned to auction. In 2019, a 30cm version with palladium hardware that was produced in the Hermès factory earlier the same year sold for a record £125,000 (including fees).
  • Since 2010, the average values of Hermès Kelly handbags have risen 129 per cent with a compound annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent respectively over the same period.
  • Prices of Hermès on the secondary reseller market are up to 75 per cent more than the retail price due to low supply on the primary market. In some cases secondary market prices can be up to 250 per cent more.
  • Size matters: The report notes that there has been a shift in interest away from the 35cm Birkin towards the 30cm versions recently.
  • For a long time, Hermès bags were the only choice for collectors, but now the picture is changing as more collectors are embracing vintage pieces from other iconic brands, specifically CHANEL.
  • Since 2010, the average values of Louis Vuitton handbags in the Index’s tracking group have risen 11 per cent with a compound annual growth rate of one per cent over the same period. The brand has produced many more handbag designs than other brands over the years and in greater numbers and are still readily available in store today. Several, such as the Noe (average price increase +58.3 per cent since 2015), Speedy (average price decrease -12.5 per cent since 2015) and the Alma from the 1930s (average price decrease -4 per cent since 2015) are considered timeless classics. The most recent design to win hearts was the launch of the Neverfull in 2007 and it quickly became a must-have for any collector (average price increase +5.9 per cent since 2015).
  • Auction houses are clambering to get a piece of the designer handbag resale market. Christie’s is global market leader when it comes to selling designer handbags with over 50 per cent market share. Having returned its headquarters to London from Hong Kong in 2017, total sales in the UK have increased three-fold.
  • French auction house Artcurial was one of the first to launch a dedicated handbag auctions in Paris in 2008. Fast forward 12 years and dedicated designer handbag sales are happening in locations such as London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Sweden, Monaco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Brussels, Stuttgart and Melbourne.
  • Conversations around quality and sustainability, which helped the secondary handbag market after the 2008 crash, are likely to play strongly if there is another recession.

Sebastian Duthy comments:

“Our report provides a fascinating insight into the handbag ‘power brands’.

“The index tracks a range of luxury handbags from standard models to rare and limited editions, providing a rounded picture of market trends.

“While CHANEL Flap bags have witnessed increased value, the analytics – together with the wider market observation – indicate that Hermès has the most solid status and is immune to external factors that can impact price.”

Alice Leger is head of the handbag department at French auction house Artcurial. In the report she says:

“The handbag is a simple and visible access to luxury. Today, a woman is going to distinguish herself by her bag. It has become common for a woman to dress up at Zara and carry a €4,000 CHANEL bag. The brands have understood this and that’s why they keep raising prices.”

The most collectable handbag in the world

The Luxury Handbag Report reveals that the crocodile skin Himalaya Birkin by Hermès is considered the most collectable handbag in the world. Christie’s Rachel Koffsky states: “Serious collectors will not consider their collection complete until they have one of these pieces of the series.” Carefully bleached in subtle gradations from white to grey to resemble the snow-capped peaks of the world’s greatest mountain range. Each takes the best part of a working week to make.

Rising stars

Amanda Zhao, leads the handbag department at Poly Auctions in Hong Kong, and also contributed to the report and added an interesting point of view in regard to CHANEL bags. She says:

“I think the collections of CHANEL are growing in value and popularity at auctions. In spring auction of 2019, we presented a curated showcase of vintage jewellery and limited-edition handbags by CHANEL from different periods to pay tribute to Karl Lagerfeld. After heated bidding, 20 lots fetched over $HK1million. CHANEL’s limited Métiers d’Art clutch series are becoming highly collectable because of its playful design and limited quantity.”

Who are the collectors?

The Report features interview with collectors including British international bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE, Paris-based photographer Julia Kovaljova and also Antoinette Hunter who offers a personal shopping service to clients who are seeking luxury handbags.

Julia Kovaljova belongs to an exclusive club of Hermès devotees who own more than 100 bags in her collection including the Kelly, Birkin and Constance. Julia is a self-appointed expert and posts regularly on her Instagram which boasts 40,000 followers from all around the world.

Novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE has a collection of more than 70 designer handbags which were given to her during her 56-year marriage to her late husband, the movie producer Robert Bradford. These include vintage Hermès, CHANEL and Dior.

Antoinette Hunter started her business Lilac Blue in 2007, during the rise of the ‘personal shopper’ businesses. She explains: “Initially it was ‘A’ list celebrities and royalty. Then it became captains of industry and now its ladies who lunch. Most of our bags to our clients across the Far East and the Middle East will be bought by men for their wives or sisters or mothers but more and more women are buying these themselves.

Antoinette Hunter adds:

“It’s been fascinating to watch the market grow and observe men’s attitudes to women as they turn their love of handbags in to one that is focused on serious collecting. Men thought it was a bit of a joke, ridiculing if a woman tried to compare their handbags to a man’s collecting passion, be it classic cars or watches. Now, women are able to sit back, smile, and say to them: ‘I told you so!! ”

Amanda Zhao at Hong Kong’s Poly Auction adds:

“In the early years, collectors mostly entered the auction market in search of unique handbags because they could not buy them in the store. With the transformation of the handbag market, collectors have become more knowledgeable. Our buyers range from white-collar workers who buy handbags at auction for the first time to senior (serious) professional Hermès collectors.

“Beginner handbag collectors generally look for handbags which are a perfect match for work style. Advanced handbag collectors seek handbags of different sizes and bright colours. And senior handbag collectors prefer exotic leather or handbags with jewellery accessories.”

Bags of passion

From reading the Report, it is clear: designer handbags are big business. And they are even making it in the halls of the great museums around the world. Today, collectors and aficionados can even visit an entire museums devoted to them – one in South Korea, the Simone Handbag Museum, is even bag shaped – and later this year, London’s world-renowned V&A museum in London launches a dedicated exhibition, Bags: Inside Out.

Sebastian Duthy sums up:

“The report shows that some rare and limited-edition luxury handbags have become seriously collectable, with the greatest demand coming from Asia. Hermès has been wedded to a strict policy of selling its best bags to VIP clients only, but with prices running away on the secondary market it’s likely the brand will seek a stake in this market at some point soon.”

The Luxury Handbag Report is available to purchase from at £599.00 including a trial subscription to AMR’s online ‘Create an Index’ service.


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