1. Home
  2. Retail
  3. news
  4. Some of Hermès' rarest Birkins are up for auction — with many expected to go for more than $100,000

Some of Hermès' rarest Birkins are up for auction — with many expected to go for more than $100,000

Madeline Berg   

Some of Hermès' rarest Birkins are up for  auction — with many expected to go for more than $100,000
  • Christie's luxury handbag auction is underway, with some Hermès bags expected to fetch six figures.
  • The auction highlights the high demand and limited supply of Birkins that drives up their value.

If you're in the market for a Hermès bag that doubles as a doll house, you're in luck — as long as you have $100,000 or so to spare.

Auction house Christie's launched its latest handbag auction on Thursday, and seven of the lots are expected to fetch prices in the six figures.

The most expensive bags are variations of the Hermès Birkin — and the estimated prices, all at heavy markups from retail, show the chokehold that the French house's hero product has on the luxury market.

A new Birkin bag starts at about $10,000 and can cost well into the six figures depending on material, size, and rarity. Each year, the company's artisans handmake a limited number of the style; in the luxury sector, that scarcity supercharges desire.

"It's literally economics 101," retail industry expert and consultant Hitha Herzog told Business Insider earlier this year. "When you have short supply and high, high demand and the branding that goes with it — that is what fuels it."

The brand's Faubourg Birkins are among those in the shortest supply and, thus, the most covetable. The bag's name refers to Hermès' Paris flagship on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where the company has been based since 1880 when it was still primarily a saddlery.

A Neige Faubourg Birkin 20 boasts the auction's highest estimated price: $120,000 to $180,000. And it could go for much more. Since 2022, Hermès bags sold at Christie's auctions have gone for an average of 141% of the lowest estimated price, Christie's said.

The rare bag's design is reminiscent of the store's facade, with its three windows and iconic orange awnings. The light gray colorway, which is supposed to convey winter in Paris, is the most valuable of the models, given the amount of exotic alligator skin used in its construction. Last year, the same style sold for just over $280,000 at a Sotheby's auction, and in 2022, another went for more than $300,000.

The other two Faubourgs available in the Christie's auction, one blue and the other brown, are expected to go for between $100,000 and $150,000. A Birkin with white gold and diamond hardware has the same estimate. Hermès handbags, particularly those in pristine condition (aka new) and rare designs, have always commanded high prices in the resale market due to their exceptional craftsmanship, timeless appeal, and limited availability.

"They are often reflective of the rarity and desirability of the bags," Nicole Pollard Bayme, the founder of luxury styling firm Lalaluxe, told BI over email. "Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags, especially the Faubourg bag, for example, are iconic symbols of luxury and status, coveted by collectors worldwide."

As the auction demonstrates, luxury handbags — particularly those made by tightly controlled brands like Hermès — are increasingly worthy investments. The Neige Faubourg retails for about $50,000 and is expected to fetch two to three times that.

A 2022 Deloitte and Credit Suisse report found that value Birkin and Chanel bags had an average return of 38% and 11.8%, respectively, in 2020. That beats the average return rate of classic cars, watches, and fine art in the same year.

"Watches and jewelry as well as handbags (especially Chanel handbags) are clearly standing out as stores of value with low volatility (between 2.5% and 5% annually) and low drawdowns," the report's authors wrote.

For the resale premium, buyers gain immediate access to the bag of their choosing, something they typically can't get at an Hermès boutique.

While the "rules" around buying a Birkin directly from Hermès have never been disclosed — the company is currently embroiled in a legal battle around the practice — customers must often cultivate a yearslong spending history with the brand and relationships with sales associates. Even then, buyers don't often get to select a specific bag but are offered the opportunity to snag whichever one their sales associate can get their hands on.

"Most of our clients don't have the time or patience to play the 'Hermès game,'" Alexis Clarbour, who specializes in reselling luxury handbags at Madison Avenue Couture, told BI earlier this year.

While dozens of Birkins and Kellys (Hermès' other signature style) make up the auction's priciest lots, a couple of Louis Vuitton lots are expected to fetch at least $10,000. Both are limited editions from the brand's 2023 collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama.

Chanel, Dior, Loewe, and Roger Vivier are also represented among the lots.

Last summer's handbag auction netted Christie's $4.1 million. Nine bags sold for over $100,000, with the top lot, a Kellywood, going for $176,400.