the birkin story


“Its not a bag it’s a Birkin” said the Hermès employee to Samantha Jones on Sex and the City and to anyone calling it a purse, it’s a handbag. The iconic moment that signified one of the first times the girls on SATC were not able get what they want was also the moment that sent the world aflame over the exclusivity and desirability of the bag. In the show the 35cm Rouge Vif Clemence leather Birkin with Gold hardware was quoted at $4000 in 2001. Today the bag retails around $12,000 in the United States with tax. A 200% increase in 11 years, the retail price increases from around 8% to 14% each year on average with the lowest year between 1980 and 2015 being 2.1% and prices for the same bag differ depending on state, country, and region. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, $100 in June 2022 is equal to $59.90 in August 2001 when the “Birkin” episode of Sex and the City was aired. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.06% per year between 2001 and 2019, producing a cumulative price increase of 30.73%.

The Hermès Birkin bag has outperformed, at a yearly average the S&P 500, gold, and the real estate market since 1980. So why are the masses not purchasing Birkin bags or the single-handled counterpart the Hermès Kelly? There has always been a stigma for men to not involve themselves in matters deemed exclusively for women or the LGBTQ+ community. Studies have shown that both men and women are less likely to invest in Female-led IPO’s and invest less money on average in companies tailored to women (L’Oréal, Vera Wang). Men are also less likely to invest in a piece that they couldn’t see themselves wearing, e.g., a Rolex watch can be worn by any person, but Insider Magazine drew data from 8,000 Rolex customers and determined that the average Rolex wearer is a 68-year-old male, a two to one demographic of men to women, and 66% being over the age 65. A Stainless-Steel Rolex Explorer I increased in price by 28% between 2008 and 2018, a 2.8% yearly increase and adjusted for inflation it comes to a 10% increase in 10 years. Celebrity jeweler IcedBySean told us “when I was 21 I traded all my gold for a two tone Yachtmaster II and it cost $16500 and I recently sold it for $27,000, whereas the gold I used to buy it only raised in value only $4000. It is also worth noting that the 2008 financial crisis did not affect either Rolex watches or Hermès bags. These novelties are recession-proof, crisis proof, and do not abide by the economics of any one country or any single catastrophic change in the social milieu. The rich seem to always get richer but regardless of wealth, Hermès only values the relationship one builds with the store and its employees. There is no rumored waiting list, there is no monetary quota until one is offered to you, and there is no bribing the employees as the system for getting a client a Birkin or a Kelly is under careful scrutiny by Hermès corporate.

Not all Hermès bags have such desirability, the craze is exclusive to the Birkin and Kelly, named after Anglo-French singer and actress Jane Birkin who sat alongside then CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a plane in 1984 and necessitated a new bag design that could hold her belongings more comfortably and fashionably and princess of Monaco Grace Kelly who was seen using her Kelly bag to cover her pregnancy bump from paparazzi, respectively. Jane Birkin asked to have her name removed from the bag due to her view on cruel alligator/crocodile farming practices which were later improved to appease Ms. Birkin. There are novelty bags like the Kelly Doll or the Faubourg Birkin made to look like the Hermès shop on 24, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré which are worth mentioning for their collectability. There are an infinite number of permutations of each bag encompassing color, size, collection, hardware, stitching, leather, and all are handmade making every Hermès bag a true one of one collector bag.

There has been a recent change in the zeitgeist concerning men’s fashion. Today’s time appropriates comfortability in one’s own skin, more and more males are wearing female-inspired clothing options, using more beauty products historically tailored for women, and finally seeing a therapist for years of bottled-up trauma. Celebrities like Jared Leto, Kanye West, Lil Nas X, Harry Styles, Drake, Pharrel Williams, David Beckham, etc. are wearing what was once taboo in the form of dresses, gowns, painted nails, small dainty purses, heels, and other female-oriented accoutrements. Masculinity is no longer attributed to superficial qualities or clothing in this world so many investment professionals are urging investors, big and small, to purchase rare handbags, whether they or their partners wear them or not.

Virgil Rogers, who has one of the world’s largest investment bag collections in Palm Beach, Florida; Aspen, Colorado and New York City urges buyers to keep it locked somewhere safe, without dust or light and only take it out for important galas or when visiting an Hermès store. “Most women have several bags that they wear out which they are comfortable wearing daily but the rarest they keep for special occasions and for investment purposes.” This year Virgil sold a Palladium hardware Albino Himalayan Crocodile Kelly bag 35cm for $500,000USD. A record-breaking price for a bag without diamonds on it and he has the receipts to prove it. “There are probably many bags that have sold around or over that price, but they don’t go published, the clientele who want and can afford these bags do not flaunt or divulge these purchases and we at Only Authentics maintain privacy for our clients. I will tell you we have a 25cm Lipstick Braised Red Shiny Porosus Crocodile Birkin with VVS diamonds that we have selling for $600,000USD and it will go fast.” The bag he referred to sold as a 30cm model in 2011 for $203,150 but Rogers’ handbag is smaller and a more attractive light shade of red. “Small bags are what people want right now” says Rogers, “Regardless of how many hands get changed, the goal is for someone to purchase these bags to wear so you have to be able to predict trends in this market, in the next few years we will see handbags becoming smaller and more compartmentalized, all you need nowadays is your phone, your AmEx, and some ChapStick and you’re ready to go about town.” Virgil Rogers has been amassing a collection of Hermès and Chanel bags over 35 years and is known famously by his clients who value his expertise and privacy. He states that the animal skin bags are going to have the highest resale values especially due to Chanel’s 2019 decision to stop using animal skins. “As for something anyone can purchase, the Chanel Classics caviar or lambskin will fetch the highest prices because Chanel also imposed a quota on how many bags you can buy a year (5) and how many can be classics (2).” (Chanel recently announced a raise in their prices at 10% in the EU due to the decreasing value of the Euro and around 6% in the US and other markets). His clientele ranges from the Kardashians to the Saudi Royal Family and when asked why the ultra-wealthy go to resellers instead of Hermès, he had this to say: “the world’s most famous movie star went to Hermès to purchase a bag for his wife and they had nothing to offer him, they all knew who he was but he simply never made a relationship with any one employee there regardless of them watching his movies since they were teenagers, if they did have one for him she may not have liked that look, so he came to me and I handed him a bag, shook his hand and we both went about our day, no hoops were jumped through.”

For those wondering how to acquire am Hermès bag, there are two good options. One, you become a client at Hermès and create a rapport with a sales associate and spend lots of money and time at the store until you are offered one (customers interviewed stated that some were offered a bag after spending as little as $50,000USD and the most at $500,000. Two, you purchase a bag for as little as you can from the resale market or a private client. The disadvantages to option one are that you do not know when you will be offered a bag and you have very little say in the matter unless you are given the ability to customize your own bag. The bags that the employees will bring you are not going to be the rarest in the world, they may be a less popular color or a larger size and may be done in a leather that does not retain its shape and sheen. You must remember that you are not the only person trying to develop a relationship with an Hermès employee, there may be someone with much more money and much more time who will be favored in the arbitrary decision making process of who gets a bag and when. The resell price of handbags from Hermès may be quintuple the retail store price but the investor saves tens of thousands of dollars by removing the need to purchase items from Hermès and building a relationship, not to say this should not be done, Hermès has the world’s highest quality fabrics, saddles, and jewelry but time is of the essence when dealing with investments.

Daniel Hassan, Owner of the Patina collective, one of the world’s biggest private Mercedes collections in South Florida owns several bags as well and values them for their investment quality. “The advantage of Birkins and luxury watches is they don’t need to be stored in an armored facility and they don’t need maintenance like my investment grade classic cars. The classic car investment market has seen higher appreciation however there is a higher level of care required. Most people would pick a car over a bag any day but if you have a bunch of both, stock up on some bags now.” Daniel pointed out that one of his 1990 Mercedes 190 Evolution-II 2.5 liter with 18,000km was just $200,000 in 2018 and one just sold this year for $432,000.

The most well-known Hermès collector/investment bag is the Himalayan crocodile Birkin, with or without diamond hardware it is expensive, rare, and there are several available on the resale market. A 30cm diamond Himalayan Birkin was purchased from the Hermès store by David Beckham for his wife Victoria who is an avid collector for $80,000 euro in 2008, 1 of 3 made. A customer of Hermès recently presented us a receipt for a 30cm diamond Himalayan Birkin marked at 250,000 euro from the Hermès store. A 2.5x increase in 14 years. The bags are currently selling at public auction for $500,000. What makes the albino crocodile Birkin so rare is that crocodiles born with albinism usually do not survive more than 24 hours due to UV radiation and in the wild they are killed by predators. Albinism is a very rare genetic condition where there is a lack of pigment in the animal. Most crocodiles are not completely albino but leucistic where they lose most of their pigment but still retain some color, hence the Himalayan skin being partially black/brown. In order to get one the right size for a leather it must therefore grow large. Albinism is autosomal recessive so it is difficult to produce more albinos from sex, the chance is 25% meaning at least 4 successive litters would make maybe one albino from an albino male and female pair. Skins are and will continue to be the most valuable type of handbags in the resell market.

I strongly urge the general public to throw out any prejudices or assumptions on handbags and start buying and selling handbags as much as they can. These bags are only going to go up and up and whether you are a technical analyst or fundamentalist, the evidence is manifest. If you ever come across a Birkin, Kelly or a Chanel classic, buy it or someone else will, the worst thing you can do in this turbulent, yet lucrative market is have FOMO, and not be stylish.

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Chan, Kelvin (3 May 2017). "Birkin bag sells for record $380,000 at Hong Kong auction". AP News. Retrieved 5 January 2020.

Association, Press (2 July 2015). "Jane Birkin asks Hermès to remove her name from handbag after Peta exposé". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 August 2019.

Why a $223,000 Hermès Birkin bag might actually be a good investment". Fortune. Retrieved 31 May 2016.

Blum, Alexander (8 November 2017). "Drake has a massive collection of Birkin bags he wants to give to his future wife'". VT. Retrieved 31 August 2020.

Leong, Trinna (1 May 2018). "Malaysian police seize 284 luxury bags, 72 bags of cash and valuables from Najib-linked apartments". The Straits Times. Retrieved 5 January 2020.

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