While typically purchased based on an aesthetic preference first and foremost, designer handbags can also be bought with the intent of a potential profit from an increase in value over time. Although choosing exactly which bag to buy is at its core a completely subjective process, there are some factors we can consider when planning for our next bag purchase or possible investment opportunity.
Some factors seem so obvious, and yet can be a big misdirection. While prices do increase over the years in boutiques, the price inflation won't necessarily affect all the models from that brand on the secondhand market. For example, Chanel Double Flap Bags keep going up in price in retail stores, but this doesn’t directly affect the resale price of the Chanel Grand Shopping Tote (known as the GST for short).
It is also extremely important to delineate the difference between the “asking price” of a bag on a marketplace and the actual “selling price". Many marketplaces will overask, and the items won’t sell, or will eventually be reduced before being purchased. Being realistic about what you can sell for can help your handbags sell much quicker on the secondhand market.
In no particular order, these factors can be reduced to the categories that follow.
The overall desirability for a particular sized bag relies heavily on both current trends and its functionality based on the needs of the shopper. For example, there's been a rise recently in larger crossbody bags with extra pockets, as this offers extra practicality in today's world re-mask, sanitizers, and the sort.
While size plays a large role in shopping for today, it's equally important for selling for tomorrow. It's not just about how it functions, but how readily available the size is. Consider market saturation on both the retail and resale markets, and if that particular model/size combination is still in production. A coveted model out of production will likely yield a larger return on the secondhand designer bag market.
*Tip* If you're really looking to command a higher resale return, it's important to consider the amount of items the bag will be holding and the total weight you'll be toting. Overcarrying or overstuffing for the size of the bag can weigh heavily on the handles, which can wear them quickly.
Arguably one of the most subjective factors to consider, color offers a dynamic range of variables that can affect your final resale price:
Rare and discontinued colors, assuming desirable, can yield higher returns.
Colors only offered during certain seasons or collections can go for higher prices when in demand, or conversely, can be less desired in the off season. Consider that a rich jewel tone Chanel Flap bag may not carry the same influence in June as it will in the fall.
Current influences (i.e. present runways, Pantone official colors, social media trends, etc.) can be a price booster or a temporary drawback on the sale of a designer bag.
Regular home cleaning and care maintenance is much higher on a light colored bag than a dark which can affect the demand. From a professional retouching standpoint, fixes will be easier on standard colors, such as retouching a worn out corner on a Black Dior Clutch, than on a specific sparkle-infused shade of periwinkle blue.
Neutrality and/or versatility make for higher demand as potential shoppers know that they can get more use out of their future designer handbag.
Similarly, the ideal color/type of hardware a bag can have is extremely subjective, and can also have a major impact in the desirability of authentic designer handbags, both on the primary and secondary markets. Many Chanel enthusiasts will proudly boast their status in camp gold hardware, or silver. Balenciaga aficionados will also often preach the gospel of Classic vs. Giant 21 vs. Metallic Edge.
For some brands, it's not only about favorability, but scarcity of certain pairings. With Hermes handbags, for example, although Palladium hardware (PHW for short) isn’t uncommon, finding it on a Glycine Birkin or Kelly might be less customary, garnering it a premium price tag on the secondhand market.
While the two major players in this category are general gold-tones vs. silver-tones, there are a number of hardware options that can add value to the resell potential of a bag based on availability, and desirability.
Textured (i.e. Hermes’ Guilloché)
While material can be another subjective factor, there's also a wear component which counts towards handbag condition, and affects its resale value on the secondary market. The more durable a material, there is the possibility it will then contribute to the physical longevity of a bag — though this is in no way guaranteed.
There are a few general rules of thumb, which can usually guide a price point. For example, leather bags will likely be more expensive than bags made with coated canvas or nylon or other more ordinary materials. This is not a guarantee; however, that a leather bag will appreciate more than a jacquard bag over time.
Each material or leather comes with its own pros and cons. When looking at Hermes' leathers, for example, Togo is durable, yet heavy, whereas Box Calf is classic, yet fragile. These properties tie into color/leather combinations in their product line. Consider the smooth, soft grain of their Swift leathers, and how it's used for their particularly bright and saturated colors since the leather dyes extremely well.
For Chanel, while it is their leather bags that are the most in-demand, the brand is known for their iconic tweeds. This can help increase the resale value of a Chanel bag in that particular material given it is 'quintessentially Chanel'. A Prada bag done in a similar tweed material, may not garner the same respect, regardless of its sleek aesthetic, and may not hold the same resale value.
A specific material category with its own set of rules is exotic skins. Although they are deemed as being extremely distinguished and exclusive in designer boutiques, their prominence can at times be a strike against them on the resale market. In addition to the values of such pieces decreasing regardless of style or color, such as Nancy Gonzalez bags which are always sold for way less than retail on the resale market, there is also the issue of the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). As explained on the CITES web page, “[they] are an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.” Accordingly, exotic skins require certification when being sent across borders to show their origins, travel history, and confirm the materials were obtained both legally and ethically. Without the inclusion of the CITES documents, an item crossing the border from one country to another may be subject to confiscation.
*Tip*: Wrapping the top handles of bags such as the Hermes Birkin or the Dior Lady Dior in Hermes Twillys, Dior Mitzahs, or LV bandeaus, can help preserve their condition and retain their value for resale.
The year of manufacture for an item is extremely important because of the specifics to the models at the time. There are only certain colors manufactured during certain years, and different materials used. Another incredibly influential variable is the then-creative director of a brand which can affect the resale price of an item years later. For example, diehard fans of the brand Celine, consider the bags to fall into two distinct categories: Old Celine; at the hands of Phoebe Philo, and New Celine; everything thereafter. Depending on which camp a buyer falls in, this could very much affect what they're willing to pay for an authentic preloved Celine handbag.
Generally, the newer an item, the better the resale value will be — especially if it is still a current style. On the other end of the spectrum; however, are the “vintage bags”, which have a market all of their own in a way. Depending on the year, color, material, condition, and style, some vintage bags can resale for even more than similar styles readily available in boutiques. For example, the Chanel XL Flap with its distinctive buttery lambskin and gold-plated hardware is often coveted above the Chanel Classic Flap of today, with its considered different feel to the lambskin, though equally luxurious, and gold-tone hardware.
The longevity of an item is closely linked to how the item is stored and cared for. We recommend storing your bags in a cool, dry environment out of any direct sunlight. You should aim to keep your bags in their respective dust covers (also referred to as a dust bags), and place that within the original box if possible. The gold standard is to go with the dust cover originally accompanying the bag as there is no issue of whether the material or dye will affect the bag over time. If the original dust cover is no longer available, a great alternative would be in a white cotton bag, or any breathable cotton free from any dyes.
We also strongly suggest to not squeeze your bags together when in storage. It’s important that tey have substantial room to avoid any dents and to protect the overall shape of your bag — especially if they are being stored without a dust cover to limit the chance of color transfer. Depending on the structure of the bag, it is also essential to stuff your bag with white tissue paper (or any tissue paper without dyes — avoid newspaper) or bubble wrap. For some bags, there are even specialized pillows or frames you can purchase from marketplaces like Etsy or similar stores. This will protect the structural integrity of the bag overtime, especially at the corners.
Although a less important step for many, we recommend cleaning your bag as necessary, or after each use. Likewise, be sure to condition your leather bags to avoid the possibility of cracking or dryness. Polish hardware when necessary, but it is inevitable that there will end up being some scratches to any hardware, especially larger areas. If there is any hardware that comes in contact with the leather of the bag, it is not absolutely necessary, but it is a good added measure to wrap the hardware with tissue paper or bubble wrap to avoid imprinting on the leather during storage. For example, the Chloe Faye O-ring, which rests above the leather body.
With a multitude of things to consider, we recommend bookmarking this guide and referring back any time you're looking to make a big purchase. And if you're ready to get started, we've got plenty of wonderful investment-worthy authentic designer handbags available today!