The $300,000 sale of an Hermes Birkin bag in Hong Kong last weekend has quietly sent ripples through the art and luxury collectibles world. Not only is the sale another success for Matthew Rubinger, the boy-wonder who joined Christie’s a few years ago from Heritage in Dallas, but a confirmation of the bag category as a strong corollary to watches.
The sale was also a wake up call to the New York Times which decided to get “on it.”
Mr. Rubinger’s job is now focused on sourcing the bags for his growing clientele and assessing the quality of the consigned products on a four-grade scale (from a score of one for a brand-new bag to a four for a used one). Many of his customers are clients of Christie’s and collectors of jewelry and art, but Asia’s affluent customers are quickly fueling demand.
“Chanel has always done well in the secondary market, and we also sell Gucci and Balenciaga, but Hermès clearly is the leader,” he said, adding that the client base “is split between Asia and Europe,” with many repeat customers.
“Our previous record-holder was a 35-centimeter fuchsia crocodile Birkin with diamond hardware, which sold for 1.4 million, without the premium,” he said, referring to the sale in Hong Kong dollars. “Custom orders and exotic skins are always popular. Lizard skin is having a moment right now.”
More germane to our interests, the bags also represent another alternative currency that many wealthy persons are using as a store of value:
It might seem ridiculous to some to treat a handbag as an investment, but for a Birkin collector like Emily Chan, a Hong Kong-based investment banker, it is one worth making. She owns more than 50 of the bags, purchased as a V.I.P. customer from the Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo boutiques, as well as on secondary markets, via auctions. “Birkins are both an investment and a fashion accessory to me,” she said. “Birkins are like currency: You can cash out any time.”
Who Would Pay $300,000 for a Handbag? (The New York Times)