The desirability of an Hermès Birkin handbag — a symbol of rarefied wealth — is such that not even a global pandemic can dull demand for it. Instead, it has helped fire it up even more.
The bags are getting scooped up at record premiums in the pandemic era, according to Birkin resellers. Auction house Christie’s says that one of its two highest selling handbags in history is a Birkin made of crocodile skin that went for nearly $390,000 in November (The other was a Kelly bag, also from Hermès, that sold for close to $450,000). At reseller Privé Porter, premiums are currently 50 to 100% of the retail price, said the company’s managing director Jeffrey Berk, “except for some collector versions, which can go as high as 10 times the retail price.” Birkin bags, which retail from $9,000 to more than $500,000, are made by French luxury goods company Hermès.
Hermès only produces a limited quantity for sale each year. Getting a Birkin directly from its maker is a difficult feat — one often achieved through celebrity status or at the least, a spending history with Hermès. So resale values are a good indicator of demand. Hermès declined to comment for this story. That demand for Birkins hasn’t slowed is yet another indication of America’s two-track economy. While the country lost millions of jobs last year, the wealthiest Americans were largely unscathed by the pandemic’s economic woes and changed how they were spending their money. “The clientele for a Birkin or Kelly handbag suddenly wasn’t traveling, buying a house or a Bentley,” Berk said. “She had a lot of cash and needed to park it in an indulgence.”
Privé Porter opened its first store in November in Miami’s upscale Brickell City Centre mall. It’s a Birkin wonderland, stocked with at least $2.5 million worth of the iconic Birkin and Kelly bags at any given time lining the walls in a variety of colors and styles. As for the hottest trending Birkins through the pandemic? People are buying smaller models. And “pink is always the most popular color when it comes to Hermès bags,” said Berk. Among the most expensive Birkins at the store right now is a pair of tiny bags — just 20 centimeters in width — that showcase the outside of the iconic Hermès store in Paris, one during the day and the other at nighttime. The price for both: $450,000.