Latest auction craze: Bags for big bucks

LUXE BAG: Mr Rubinger holds a Hermes Birkin in crocodile red valued up to US$90,000.


    May 02, 2014

    Latest auction craze: Bags for big bucks


    THE bargains start below US$150 (S$188) and the most expensive go for more than US$100,000: Designer handbags are the latest craze taking global auction houses by storm and fetching record prices.

    Texas-based Heritage Auctions, which calls itself the market leader in luxury accessories, held its New York spring sale on Monday - and was more than upbeat about how well it was going to go.

    "I expect to break into the top 10, but I don't believe any will break the world record," its 26-year-old director of luxury accessories, Matthew Rubinger, said.

    Of the 800 lots that went under the hammer, the most expensive was a Hermes Birkin in shiny black crocodile skin, complete with a padlock and diamond and white gold clasp, valued between US$80,000 and US$100,000.

    The second costliest was another Birkin in crocodile red with violet trim, gold clasp and special horseshoe ornament, prominently placed in the US$70,000 to US$90,000 price range.

    In the luxury auction market, Hermes bags are by far the most prized, especially those named after British actress Jane Birkin and the Kelly line that channels the late Princess Grace of Monaco.

    In the luxury accessories category, which Heritage created in 2010, Hermes is followed by Chanel and Louis Vuitton, ahead of Gucci, Prada and Celine, said Mr Rubinger.

    In 2010, Heritage sold 200 lots for US$708,200, with gross sales reaching a staggering US$14.5 million last year, he said.

    The auction house has sold eight of the 10 world records, including the reigning record of US$203,150 for a red crocodile Birkin - measuring a mere 30cm - sold in Dallas, Texas, on Dec 6, 2011.

    "This is such a new market," said Mr Rubinger. "That's why it is so much fun."

    "Husbands of clients I had for years are more interested now that the dollar figures have gotten higher - we are talking real money here," he said.