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Money’s In the Bag: Handbags are Actually a Valuable Asset. Here’s How to Invest Wisely

By Mark Ellwood

With the stock market roiling, luxury goods—especially designer handbags—are becoming a hotly sought-after investment commodity. One July study from the Business of Fashion said 40% of US consumers had bought or were planning to buy one, helping bolster the category from a global market of $72 billion this year to a predicted $100 billion in 2026.

Hip hop artist Cardi B and her designer bag collection (Photo: Instagram)

Buy them to store and trade, rather than tote, and that as-new purse could offer an impressive return on investment: In June a study from Credit Suisse Group AG showed that Chanel bags rose in value 24.5% from the previous year. Those by the house’s late designer Karl Lagerfeld are especially coveted.

The entire luxury bag sector was singled out, over other categories like cars or wine, for its risk-reward proposition. Handbags, Credit Suisse says, had annualized volatilities of 2.5% to 5%, with mid-single-digit returns.

They aren’t going to replace your BlackRock exchange-traded funds—retail prices can range from about $2,000 for an entry-level Balenciaga bag to more than $50,000 for some of the rarer, exotic-skin Birkins made by Hermès. But they offer an opportunity for investors at many levels to get into a fun game. (An August study by resale website TheRealReal reported that Gen Z and millennial shoppers make up 41% of its customers, with Gen Z the age group fastest to buy and try to turn items around quickly to make a profit.)

We canvassed the world’s best secondhand bag dealers, asking for recommendations for investment-worthy totes in two categories: first, a bag that’s already proved bankable on the secondary market; and second, a bag you can find in retail boutiques right now that the experts expect to offer impressive returns in the future.

To get the best price, which is well above average, a bag must be in absolute mint condition, preferably with tags on. And to increase in value, rather than just hold it, a bag must have been rare at retail—sold in limited quantities or made from a sought-after material.

So Black Birkin

Money’s In the Bag: Two experts recommend the Hermès So Black Birkin, a Jean-Paul Gaultier-era limited edition in which both hardware and leather are black. “It’s seductive, the way it draws you in,” swoons Diane D’Amato, director of luxury accessories, private sales, and boutique at Heritage Auctions Inc. Judy Taylor, president and CEO of reseller Madison Avenue Couture, advocates for it because none of the So Black designs have been reissued.

Price: A So Black in crocodile fetched $208,000 three years ago. Taylor says a 35-centimeter So Black Matte Alligator Birkin in mint condition can go for $175,000. This year, she sold a never-used So Black Birkin 30cm from 2011 for $75,000.

Goyard Plumet Pocket Wallet

The Stuff of Potential: Step inside a Goyard store today, and you’ll be politely asked not to take any photos. “The associates aren’t allowed to send you pictures either,” D’Amato says. “The brand ensures its exclusivity with almost no advertising, no e-commerce, and very few stores in select cities.” The best investment piece, she says, is a Plumet Pocket Wallet first introduced in 2018 that can also be worn as a crossbody bag.

Price: It started at $1,080 then and has already reached $1,310 at the store, with most Goyard models holding about 111% of their value, according to D’Amato’s calculations: “Goyard has a substantial ROI, and I foresee impressive growth moving forward.”

Gucci Jackie

Money’s In the Bag: Kate Moss, Harry Styles, and everyone else has carried the 1961 hobo-style model made famous as a paparazzi shield by the former first lady in the 1970s. It’s been reinterpreted by Gucci creative directors including Tom Ford, Frida Giannini, and Alessandro Michele. “It’s the perfect investment piece,” says Sophie Hersan, co-founder of Paris-based online consignment store Vestiaire Collective SA, which operates in more than 50 countries. “Most vintage Gucci bags have plus-100% retention values.”

Price: Resale site Rebag, which tracks historical prices, estimates a medium Gucci Jackie 1961 Hobo in GG Supreme Canvas runs $2,320 to $2,575. New, it now starts at $2,850.

Balenciaga City

The Stuff of Potential: “It was unlike anything of the time,” says Hersan of the buzzy bag then-creative director Nicolas Ghesquière designed in 2001. “It had a slouchy silhouette, no logo, and tassels and studs. Balenciaga’s execs refused to greenlight it.” Determined, the designer had 25 made and gave them to influencers such as editors Carine Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt, and the rest is history.

Price: Balenciaga’s City line evolved into two new ones, the Neo Classic and the Cagole. The Cagole (seen above) is the most wait-listed bag currently on TheRealReal; new versions in colorful crocodile start at $2,500. Meanwhile, gently used City bags can be found on Vestiaire in the range of $500 to $1,000.

Louis Vuitton Monogramouflage Speedy

Money’s In the Bag: It was part of the multiyear collaboration between Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and then-creative director Marc Jacobs, and limited distribution has helped the bag soar from $1,530 to more than $7,000 in the last 14 years. “The Marc Jacobs era is a time when LV seemed to come alive,” says Lara Osborn, senior procurement director of reseller Fashionphile Group LLC, which opened a huge space in New York this spring. “This is unisex, utilitarian, and camo is like leopard, in that it can be pulled off as a neutral.”

Price: The resale website Grailed lists a good-condition Louis Vuitton Monogramouflage Speedy 35 for $7,650.

Bottega Veneta Mini Jodie

The Stuff of Potential: Osborn has watched the low-key brand Bottega Veneta quietly hike its retail prices by almost 40% in the past two years, she says, and so suspects that will be reflected in its future resale value. British designer Daniel Lee was creative director at the brand for only three years, but he helped transform its secondary-market performance. Bottega bag sales at Fashionphile increased 242% between the Tomas Maier era, which concluded in 2018, and Lee’s tenure. The Jodie style—which was introduced in 2020—is a standout, gaining 22% in value in the two years it’s been at Fashionphile.

Price: A new Bottega Veneta Mini Jodie bag runs $2,500.

Chanel Classic Flap

Money’s In the Bag: Nicknamed “Chanel Diana” as a nod to how frequently the Princess of Wales was spotted with it, this bag was released in 1989 and cost a few hundred pounds at the time. Toni says the key models to look out for include black with 24-karat gold hardware (Diana’s favorite) and lambskin leather, used sparingly as a material. “It was originally quite flat, thinner, and lighter,” Toni says. So don’t be fooled by the version rebooted in 2015. “There are distinct changes—10 stitches per quilt edge create a puffier effect than the vintage 12.”

Price: Rebag estimates that a vintage medium Chanel Classic Flap will cost as much as $6,000.

Louis Vuitton Monogram Illusion Keepall

The Stuff of Potential: Less than a year after this neon eye-catcher was introduced, some versions are already reselling for almost double the original retail price, Richardson says. It’s a riff on the brand’s soft travel bag, first released in the 1930s and produced under the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s creative direction. This model has only recently started to receive design refreshes, Richardson says. “Virgil managed to add spirit to a simple traveling bag and make it look cool—a nice object to carry,” she says. “And once a genius is gone, everyone wants to pay tribute to them. Owning an object like that is a way of doing that.”

Price: It sells for $4,450 at retail, if you find it!

Fendi Baguette

The Stuff of Potential: The trend toward re-editions means everything old is new again—especially handbags. “It’s the increasing popularity of Y2K culture in the Gen Z market,” says Hanushka Toni, co-founder of London-based online reseller Sellier Ltd. “Bags that were released in the past are being launched again, often in new materials or colorways.” Her standout future investment among these is the Fendi Baguette, that Sex and the City-toted staple, ideally in lilac-colored sequins, as shown above.

Price: A new Baguette 1997 in lilac sequins, featuring a matching, satin-lined internal compartment, is available on the Fendi website for $4,300.

Hermès Kelly

Money’s In the Bag: The Kelly started out as the Sac à dépêches in the 1930s but earned its nickname (and, later, official moniker) after Princess Grace Kelly famously used one to hide her baby bump in 1956. Vintage models can now fetch as much as $60,000, according to Vogue stylist Clare Richardson, who recently started the consignment platform Reluxe. She says her current favorite is the Kelly Sellier in Epsom leather. It’s finely grained but also scratch-resistant; it cost $10,300 new in 2021. The colors to hunt down are black with gold hardware or the brownish étoupe, also with gold: “They’re easy to style—and timeless.”

Price: Rebag estimates $9,770 to $14,995 for a vintage black Hermès Kelly 35.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com.

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