London—Maybe it’s acase of frugality fatigue in the extreme, but wealthy collectors have been snapping up rare Hermès Birkins at auction often for prices more than double the full retail.
Last week Christie sold “Blue Abyss” crocodile Birkin from Hermès’ 2010 collection for about $63,874—not far off the record set last November of $76,300 for 2004 black crocodile Birkin.
Coveted due to their rarity and the usually long wait lists Hermès has, Birkins continue to be the ultimate “it” handbags. Christie’s is finding affluent consumers who want them are willing to pay more than Hermès retail to get them at auction. All told, for the 81 Hermès bag up for auction, Christie’s raised more than $735,000.
“It’s all about supply and demand,” Patricia Frost, Christie’s director of costume and textiles, said. “You might have enough money, but you can’t go into Hermès and buy a crocodile Birkin. Auctions don’t have waiting lists.”
While Sotheby’s and other auction houses have seen record prices for rare works of art lately, Christie’s handbag sales are a specialist luxury market. Celebrity associations with a bag could make the prices climb even further, Frost said, adding: “Mind you, if we offered a ‘Kelly’ that had been owned by Grace Kelly that would be quite something.”
Indeed, Hermès, whose Birkins usually start about $7,000, has seen impressive sales gains this year. Last week the Paris-based brand reported a 27% increase in sales for the period ending June 30, outpacing many of its luxurygoods competitors.
There’s also a buzz going among fashionistas bloggers that Hermès is planning to introduce a new signature bag that will “rival the Birkin.” No word yet on what the bag will be called. So far the only detail circulating is it will be all black.