By: Eustacia Huen
April 26, 2016
It has only been ten months since an Hermès fuchsia Birkin bag was sold at Christie’s handbag auction in Hong Kong for record-setting $221,846. But earlier this month, an extremely rare 35cm Hermès braise shiny porous crocodile Birkin bag with 18-karat white gold and diamond hardware became the most expensive resold Birkin bag at $298,000.
Aside from being one of the rare few handbags that has ever been produced in the world, what makes this particular Birkin bag so special is how it represents the pinnacle of luxury handbag craftsmanship, according to Dirk DeSouza, Spokesperson of Privé Porter. Featuring the “finest crocodile skin treated with the most decadent, deepest red color imaginable, it takes a craftsman (with at least two years of apprenticeship experience at Hermès) about 50 hours to singlehandedly assemble this bag, perhaps even more when considering the diamond inlays and gold hardware,” he said. As for the condition, this $298,000-handbag which Privé Porter acquired in 2015 was unused, in “store fresh” condition and in its original packaging.
But beyond all the labor, material cost and exclusivity, another factor that could explain this hefty price tag may boil down to preference, according to DeSouza. “Marked by the fact that one could only buy a Birkin after developing a long, verified financial relationship with the brand, showing loyalty through spending roughly around $10,000 or $20,000, some of the notable challenges of landing a Birkin bag include the multi-year long waiting list and stringent quota that only allocates even Saudi princesses only two Birkin bags per year,” he said. And “with stores being allocated only a very small number of bags discreetly held in the back,” DeSouza continued, “odds are slim for customers to get a particular color, material, and size upon first try.” Hence, this may be why the anonymous buyer was willing to splurge much more for the exact bag he or she coveted.
Unlike previous record-breaking sales, this particular bag was not auctioned off at Christie’s ($221,846 in 2015) or Heritage Auctions ($203,150 in 2011). It was sold by Privé Porter—the world’s largest curator of unused Hermès Birkin bags which exclusively posts their inventory on Instagram. Typically, most buyers would review the inventory, request for additional photos, details, and verification of original documentation before making the purchase with Privé Porter. But the anonymous buyer of this $298,000-handbag actually first took note of the luxury bag in the press coverage of the World’s First Pop-Up Yacht that contained $2 million in Birkin bags during the 56th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November 2015.
While this deviation from previous record-breaking auctions by no means indicate a shift in the way people shop for luxury goods, it does highlight how shoppers are more readily able to access coveted luxury items beyond notable auction houses and vintage stores. Nevertheless, Milton Pedraza, Founder and CEO of the Luxury Institute believes the increasingly fierce market would still have room for auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as consumers could generally trust them more for authenticity. Ultimately, Pedraza noted, “So long as you could trust the seller, ensure that the transferal of funds is safe and sound, and verify the product’s authenticity, it almost doesn’t matter whether you first gain knowledge of the product from an auction, a boat show, Instagram or Snapchat.”