Birkin bags have become the new blue-chip art.
Five of Hermès’ most coveted handbag styles sold from $8,750 to $12,500 during “Arm Candy: A Private Florida Collection of Luxury Accessories,” at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in West Palm Beach, in February. Dating from 2012 and 2013, the Birkins came in two sizes and a handful of bright colors including limited-edition bleu galice togo and rose tyrien candy with palladium hardware and square Q blindstamps. They were among a lot of 142 bags, small leather goods and silk scarves, the bulk of which had their original boxes, dust bags and receipts from when they were purchased at the same Hermès store in South Florida.
“We deal with luxury brands all the time, but what made this collection unique was its quality and quantity,” said Anne Forman, the auction house’s director of couture, adding it was more than their pristine condition that generated interest. “People are looking for durable leathers versus exotic skins, and the excitement also came from the unusual colors that you can’t buy at a store because they’re no longer available.”
The abundance of color inspired Hindman to hold the event in-season in Florida rather than in Chicago, its usual location for couture auctions. Investors should note that blues, such as a Mykonos-hued Jypsière bag that sold for $4,000, and the brand’s signature orange generally scored the highest bids. From a total of 11 Double Sens totes in taurillon clemence, bleu electric and Hermès orange went for $4,000, though none dipped below $2,250.
A winner of a Double Sens bag who declined to give her name said she wouldn’t bid above their current retail price.
“I already own one that I bought at double the price at Hermès, but this was in perfect condition, so I thought, why not?” she stated.
With a high estimate of $5,000, a couple of epsom sellier Kelly bags showed their staying power at $8,125. A Mini Evelyne bag, a discontinued style that generated tremendous conversation during the weeklong preview, received 50 condition report requests according to Forman. Estimated to fetch between $400 and $600, it skyrocketed to $2,125. She attributed the runaway hit to its size and former It-bag status.
“It’s the ideal bag to walk the dog or take the kids to the playground. I remember when every mom on the Upper East Side carried one.”
The same auction’s cache of Chanel bags also exceeded estimates. Standouts were a Caviar backpack in quilted purple leather for $1,625, and a Small Flap bag in cream calfskin for $1,875, though the top estimate for both was $600. A bowling bag in quilted blue suede brought $1,500, $1,000 more than the top estimate. Within two hours, 94 percent of the lot sold to a mix of 105 live bidders, 445 order bids and 104 through Bidsquare.
“For a single seller, this was a phenomenal sell-through, especially because we add a 25-percent buyer premium,” said Forman, who plans to grow the luxury category beyond vintage overall, and will offer a small Birkin in gold togo and three Hermès Jige clutches at the April sale in Chicago. “Everyone seems to have caught the Hermès bug.”
Carleton Varney apparently has. The interior designer wandered in to join the competition when only three items remained.
“I guess I came too late,” he said. “At least I got a scarf.”