A Hermès Birkin bag sold for £162,500 at Christie’s, in London, on Tuesday, shattering its predicted sales price of £70-90,000.
The 2015 Himalaya niloticus crocodile Birkin 35 was not the only bag to exceed expectations, with a 2007 Hermès shiny ficelle porosus crocodile Birkin selling for £118,750, following estimates of £50,000-70,000.
The Birkin bag is named after the actor and singer Jane Birkin, who was seated next to the Hermès chief executive, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight from Paris to London in 1983. Since then, the design has become hugely popular with celebrities and collectors – Victoria Beckham’s collection of more than 100 Birkins, for example, is thought to be worth more than £1.5m.
Bidders from 41 countries, across six continents, participated in the auction with sales of 243 lots totalling £3.4m. Creations from Karl Lagerfeld’s tenure at Chanel were in particular demand. The renowned designer died in February, following 36 years at the fashion house. A 2017 Chanel black lucite and crystal rocket ship evening bag, which had been estimated to sell for between £6,000-8,000, achieved £21,250, and a 2010 shiny amethyst alligator bag, which was given the same estimate, sold for £18,750.
At the other end of the scale, a Hermès leather wristlet from 1999, which had been expected to sell for between £600-800, achieved just £375.
“As awareness grows regarding the variety of pieces on the secondary market, as well as the breadth of price points, the benefits of collecting at auction become apparent,” said Rachel Koffsky, Christie’s the head of sales for handbags and accessories. “This is coupled with the awareness of sustainability, as consumers look for ways to collect and shop with a reduced impact on the environment.”
Last year’s handbags and accessories sale just missed the £3m mark with sales hitting £2.9m. However, the sale of a similar Hermès crocodile Birkin, from 2008, achieved a European record for a handbag sold at auction, also selling for £162,500. The auction house again broke records last December when a rare Louis Vuitton explorer trunk from 1892 sold for £162,500.
The most recent sale featured the largest number of designers, including Prada, Dior, Gucci, Delvaux, Celine, Fendi as well as trunks from designers including Louis Vuitton and Goyard.
“Limited edition and rare handbags continue to capture the attention of serious collectors and savvy shoppers alike,” said Koffsky.