For handbag aficionados, at some point in your life, you will have your eyes on a Birkin bag, and the thought can be both exciting and intimidating. A Birkin can easily cost more than a car and deserves no less attention and research than auto shopping. This practical guide is intended to provide you the most critical information on how to get a kick ass Birkin for the best bang of your buck.
To make a smart buy, you need to decide on your budget and set the right expectations, understand the most important attributes of the Birkin including markets it is traded in. We will break it down into the following three sections:
Budget and Expectations
Key Factors: Leather, Size and Color Combo
Other Things to Note: Year, Special Orders, and Best Markets to Buy
Before diving in, take this quick one minute quiz to get a hint which Birkin bag might be your perfect match.
I. Budget and Expectations
The average price of a regular leather Birkin bag is around $12,000 in current market and the price has been steadily increasing year over year. You can expect to pay between $7,000 to $25,000 depending on your budget and preferences.
Range A ($7,000-$10,000) : you can get a decent condition pre-owned Birkin from relatively reliable resale sites - think about Fashionphile, Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal and eBay. The options are plenty but you are more likely to come across an earthy color (Gold or Chocolate) Clemence Birkin in 35 or 40, a perfect entry level Birkin for everyday use.
Range B ($10,000-$15,000) : this is the range a recent Birkin’s actual retail price falls into. If you are lucky enough, you can get a brand-new Birkin from the Hermés store without waiting in certain parts of Europe and Japan. Most likely, however, you will still need to acquire it from a reputable resale source. You can expect to obtain a much more desirable Birkin in excellent to pristine condition from recent 5 years and in more covetable leather, color options to be further elaborated in Section II.
Range C ($15,000-$25,000) : you are entering the premium category and the price range is above Hermes’ retail price. This budget will allow you to acquire a highly covetable/collectable color, leather, combo from premium Birkin brokers and resellers such as Madison Avenue Couture, What Goes Around and Come Around, or auction houses such as Heritage Auctions and Christie’s. You should aim for the rare finds such as a “not-too-crazy” special orders, discontinued or newly released colors which tend to hold higher resale value.
II. Key Factors: Leather, Size and Color Combo
Just like assessing different cars, you will need to take a few key factors into consideration simultaneously to arrive at a more informed decision. Leather type, size and color interact with each other and affect your usage experience of a Birkin bag as well as its resale value. Understand your own preferences and find one that meets your functional, aesthetic and budgeting needs. Questions to ask yourself: are you a high or low maintenance person? Do you plan to wear your bag daily or occasionally? Do you want to maximize your return on investment or get the best deal possible? Take a look at the below charts illustrating pros and cons, comparisons and other characteristics associated with each key factor.
Popular leather types and rating of their attributes (5 stars being the highest)
Sizes and their best used cases when combined with different leather types
Combo Estimated Price Ranges
If leather and size are the base, color is the most important add-on that determines the upper part of the market value of a Birkin bag. Let’s use the most common size 35 as an example, and see how different leather type and color combinations fall into different budget ranges in Section I.
III. Other Things to Note
Year of production: While recency does correlate with a higher resale value, it has little to do with quality and design. A Gold Togo 35 made in 2000 is of similar quality of the one made in 2018 if not better, and usually resells for much less. I recommend deprioritizing year to get the best bang for your buck!
Special Orders: Technically special order Birkin bags are customized and limited edition, but they do not guarantee a high return on investment and are wild cards. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. The resale value can be overly dependent on a specific buyer’s preference.
Best Markets to Buy: The Birkin trading scene is highly segmented from consumer-to-consumer marketplaces to broker-to-consumer auctions, premium is added to each layer of middle men. The most economical way to buy a brand new Birkin is still through Hermés directly and again there is increasing availability of off-the-shelf Birkin in select boutiques. For resale market, Fashionphile, The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective are good options as they all offer authentication and deal with volume - products are priced to sell. With its major European presence, Vestiaire is the most likely market you would get a deal. If you are hunting for a rare-find or collectable, auction houses are your best bet. Brokers and dealers such as Madison Avenue Couture, JaneFinds, and 1stDibs.com house some real treasures at a much heftier price tag.
A smart Birkin purchase has proven to be a solid investment better than your Snapchat stocks. Have fun researching and learning, which I’m sure will make your Birkin collecting journey much more fulfilling!