You might have heard that the Hermes Birkin bag is worth its weight in gold…but it turns out that this is a massive understatement. The empty Birkin weighs in at around two pounds; the same weight in gold today amounts to some $37,500. The most expensive handbag ever sold at auction—fetching over $370,000 at the June 2017 Christie’s auction in Hong Kong—was, unsurprisingly, an Hermes Birkin, called the “Himalayan” due to its albino-white crocodile material and diamond-encrusted palladium hardware resembling the famous mountain region. (Pictured: 2014 Himalayan Birkin).
What makes the Birkin so expensive? The bags, which generally retail from $11,900 for the most basic calfskin models, and up to $150,000 for the most desirable crocodile and alligator trims, are incredibly rare. Production is kept minimal, and the bags are not advertised. Even with tens of thousands of dollars in hand, one cannot just walk into an Hermes boutique and ask for a Birkin—there likely are none in stock. Each bag is handmade by a single master artisan who identifies their work with a unique serial number. Back when waiting lists were a thing, they would take up to six years! Today, the Hermes Birkin is quite the unicorn, and procuring one is next to impossible. Your best bet would be the secondary market, however prices only continue to rise, making the Birkin Bag one of the best potential investments of your life. In fact, Birkins outperformed both gold and the S&P 500 stocks over the past 35 years with an annual return of 14.2%, compared with gold’s 1.5% and stocks’ 8.7%. And with Hermes’ recent elimination of the wait list and plans to further lower the current ultra-limited production, prices will likely continue to grow.
Most Birkins you might come across will vary with their construction materials. The choice of leather is the most influential factor in determining a Birkin’s value. Here are the commonly used leather types Hermes uses in Birkin construction:
Box Calf Leather: Box calf is very smooth and soft leather, typically used in Kelly bag construction. It is rather fragile as scratches and blemishes appear very easily on the matte surface, making the bag less resilient to everyday wear and tear. Box leather is commonly used in basic Birkin models at the bottom of the price range.
Ostrich Leather: Easily recognizable among the other popular leather choices for its soft touch and large pores, ostrich leather is an iconic choice in the Birkin family. Along with box calf leather, ostrich Birkins sit at the beginning of the Birkin price range, however provide a classic and intriguing look.
Clemence Leather: Also comes from the calf, however it has notable differences from Box Calf leather. Clemence has a grainier feel and is far more resistant to wear and tear, making it a great choice for everyday use.
Epsom Leather: Epsom is very similar to Clemence, however with finer grains and an even more scratch-resistant qualities. Epsom Birkins are easy to maintain and provide a perfect balance of beauty and function.
Togo Leather: Togo Leather also comes from the calf; however, unlike Clemence and Epsom the Togo leather features softer, larger grains. It too is fairly scratch resistant, but its softness still requires proper maintenance.
The most highly sought-after Birkin bags are those made with the leather of apex predators: alligator and crocodile. This is also where the most confusion around Birkin bags arises, as people commonly mistake alligator for crocodile and vice versa; however, there are some significant differences and identification features that differentiate alligator Birkins from their crocodile counterparts. Firstly, alligators dwell in freshwater while crocodiles live in saltwater. Crocodile skins also have small pores near the bottom of the scales; alligators do not have these pores. As crocodiles are typically larger than alligators, their individual scales are larger, as well as make for better options for bigger bags, like 35cm and 40cm Birkins. Alligator leather has smaller and more symmetrical scales, and is commonly used in Kelly bags and smaller 30cm Birkins.
There are two main types of crocodile leather used in Birkin construction: Niloticus crocodile (sourced from the Nile river valley) and Porosus crocodile (sourced from Asia and Australia). The alligator used by Hermes comes from the Mississippi river valley. Crocodile Birkins are extremely hard to come by in the primary market, and are typically not available to customers who do not spend six figures or more at the Hermes store. Furthermore, the price and desirability of Alligator and Crocodile Birkins is also affected by the symmetry and aesthetics of the skin and scales themselves. Every bag, therefore, is unique compared to other bags of the same leather type. Of these three leather types, Porosus crocodile is the most rare and desirable, therefor the most expensive.
Niloticus crocodile Birkins are easily identified by the two dots next to the Hermes logo
Porosus crocodile Birkins are easily identified by the chevron or ‘carat’ mark next to the Hermes logo and are the rarest of three skin types.
Alligator Mississippiensis: Alligator Birkins are easily identifiable by the square marking next to the Hermes logo. Alligator is much easier for Hermes to acquire thus these bags are not as rare as their crocodile counterparts, however Alligator Birkins remain top tier in terms of collectability and price.
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Chanel Investment Bag Guide
This guide contains everything you need to know about those Chanel bags that make for the best investment pieces. Below you will find sizing, styles and quick descriptions on what makes the bag an asset.
Easily identified by its simple, boxy silhouette, diamond-quilted leather and signature metal hardware, the Flap is a staple bag for any wardrobe. There are three main kinds of Flaps: the vintage 2.55, the Classic Flap and the Reissue2.55. See our Flap Bag Guide for the complete history behind Chanel’s Flaps and their key features.
Most sought-after classic Chanel styles:
Classic Bag Descriptions:
Boy Bag: Inspired by the love of Coco’s life, Arthur “Boy” Capel, Karl Lagerfeld created the Chanel Boy collection in the boyish spirit and charm Chanel was always known for.
2.55 Reissue: Karl Lagerfeld’s revival of Chanel’s original 2.55, featuring the rectangular mademoiselle lock, crinkled calfskin leather and tarnished metal chain.
Classic Flap: The bag that arguably brought Chanel back to life. Designed by Karl Lagerfeld in 1984, the Classic Flap is perhaps the most iconic and sought-after bag Chanel ever released.Shopping Tote: Released in three sizes (Grand, Petite and Petite Timeless) the shopping tote is made in caviar leather and is easily identifiable by the large CC logo on the front fascia.
Medallion Tote: Unfortunately discontinued, the Medallion is a quintessential classic Chanel tote bag. Its signature feature is the large golden CC medallion zipper.
Cerf Tote: While it lacks the staple quilted leather exterior, the Cerf is a classic we know and love. Released in 2005, it is available in 4 sizes (Small, Regular, Tall, XL).
Cambon Ligne: The extremely popular and sought-after Cambon Ligne was originally released in 2004 and made of soft calfskin leather. Coming in many color and style combinations, its signature feature is the grand offset CC logo. Mostly discontinued in its larger forms, the Cambon Ligne style can still be found in wallets and wallet-on-chain bags.
Wallet-On-Chain: With the ability to carry the essentials and leave the big tote at home, the WOC style is extremely popular. It is available in several styles including Classic, Cambon, Camellia and Timeless.
Timeless Clutch: Known for its interesting crescent shape and “kisslock” CC frame closure at the top, the timeless is typically made of lambskin or caviar.
Camera Case: A vary rare piece to come across, the Camera Case can be found in various sizes. Part of the Classic Collection.
Design Elements and Materials:
These Chanel bags have an appeal that is not only visual, but also tangible. From a distance, their classy silhouettes and metal hardware command attention, however it is Chanel’s attention to detail and fine choices of materials that contribute to the luxurious feel we know and love. Finally, every design element of the bags’ materials is a source of inspiration from the world Coco lived in—owning a Chanel bag is like owning a piece of that heritage, contributing to the intangible qualities that make Chanel bags such wonderful heirlooms and assets.
The signature burgundy hue we tend to find on the interior of Chanel bags is inspired by Coco’s childhood uniform she wore throughout her time at the Aubazine Abbey orphanage. Military satchels of the time were a source of inspiration for the shape Coco’s original 2.55. The trademark diamond-stitched quilted leather we see on so many Chanel bags was borrowed from the jackets worn by men at horse races.
Perfect for your everyday bag, grained calfskin or caviar leather can withstand the elements and is known for its durability. It is often used on flaps and especially totes for this very reason.
Patent Leather: Glossy and youthful, Chanel’s patent leather is a key element of classic style bags. Patent leather does, however, require more maintenance, as scratches and scuff marks on the bag’s surface are easily visible
Super soft and plush with a matte finish, lambskin leather has an incredibly luxurious feel. However, it is very fragile and must be taken care of throughout its lifetime, otherwise it will flatten and the bag may slouch. If you have a slouching bag, check out our CODO bag inserts (here)! They’re the perfect solution to this all-too-common problem.
Crinkled Calfskin: Most commonly used in Reissue bags, crinkled calfskin provides that vintage look in a soft yet durable package. Because of these qualities, Chanel bags made of crinkled calfskin are ideal daily carry bags, perfect if you want to bring luxury and class anywhere and everywhere you go.
A Quick Guide to Chanel Flap Bags: Vintage, Reissues and Classics
Written by CODO Fashion Experts
In a time when societal standards prevented women from shoulder carrying their bags, the visionary Coco Chanel wanted to go hands-free. Inspired by military satchels of the time, featuring diamond-patterned leather, rectangular metal locking mechanism and a lengthy, all-chain strap to be worn on the shoulder, Chanel released the 2.55 Flap Bag. The name “2.55” stems from the time of its creation: “2” for February and “55” for the year 1955.
(Pictured below: a vintage 2.55 bag. Note the all-chain strap lengthy enough for shoulder carry, and the original Mademoiselle Lock)
(Pictured below: the original Mademoiselle closure)
From a distance, the vintage 2.55 with its rectangular silhouette, quilted leather pattern and metal accessories resembles many other Chanel handbags. However, there are several notable features which distinguish the original 2.55 from the many other Flaps Chanel has to offer. First and foremost is the lock: The original 2.55 featured the rectangular “Mademoiselle” lock—it is said that the mechanism was given this moniker because Coco never married.
The Mademoiselle Lock was a mainstay of Chanel Flaps until the legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld assumed the role of Chanel’s creative director in 1983. During this period of Chanel’s decline, Lagerfeld revitalized the Flap with a new interlocking CC logo lock and woven leather/chain straps.
Above is a side-by-side comparison of original 2.55 Flap bag (left) and Classic Chanel Flap Bag (right) as conceived by Karl Lagerfeld. Note the difference in the locks and straps, as well as the creased, vintage appearance of the leather on the original 2.55 Flap compared to the Classic Flap’s more youthful skin tone.
Karl Lagerfeld’s modernized take on the original Flap bag breathed new life into the fashion house, his design becoming so popular that the original 2.55 was taken out of production. The CC lock Flap Bag, assuming the name “Classic Flap” had taken over, becoming the staple bag in any woman’s wardrobe. However, Lagerfeld, a master of visionary design elements rooted in classic traditions, placed the original 2.55 back into production in 2005 to commemorate the 2.55 bag’s 50th anniversary, with the same exact specifications (albeit with slight alterations to the strap, inner flap and exterior leather) as Chanel’s original 2.55 Flap. This remake is known as the 2.55 Reissue Flap. With its slightly tarnished chain, tumbled leather and vintage closure lock, the Reissue has reclaimed its fame and remains a highly collectible addition to your closet.
Technically, only those 2.55s produced in 2005 should be called “Reissues”, as reissue is simply a term for renewed production of an item that was taken out of production. However, for convenience, all 2.55 flap bags resembling the original 2.55 (i.e.have an all-chain strap and rectangular mademoiselle lock) are collectively known as Reissues, whereas all 2.55 flaps resembling Lagerfeld’s conception (i.e. CC lock and leather/metal interwoven straps) are commonly referred to as Classic flap bags.
Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld
Written by Kirill Omelich
The iconic couturier, responsible for the Chanel we have come to love and know, has died at the age of 85. As creative director of Chanel for 36 years, Karl Lagerfeld’s designs and stewardship defined an era. That we see another designer as talented and influential in our lifetimes is questionable at best: Karl Lagerfeld is truly irreplaceable.
When Karl assumed the reins of Chanel’s creative director in 1983, he breathed new life into the French house, which was on a path of steady decline following Coco Chanel’s death in 1971. His creative genius allowed him to take Chanel’s fundamentals—the tweed suits, teeny black dresses and the staple quilted flap handbags—and modernize them with his savvy knowledge of current popular culture. Whether it was hip-hop, surfer girls, even his post-mortem debut of the après-ski collection in March of 2019, across the spectrum of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs we see a common factor: all are undeniably Chanel. All of his pieces embody Coco Chanel’s core values of elegance, class and femininity, and through his masterful, modernized designs he revitalized and delivered Coco’s legacy unto us.
To any true fashionista, Lagerfeld and Chanel are two inseparable names. He brought us the extraordinary fashion shows, the intriguing collections and theatrical displays. some of his most influential work, particularly with Chanel handbags, is lesser known. When we think of a Chanel flap bag, we immediately envision the shiny, metal interlocking CC logo. Unknown by many, this was an entirely Karl Lagerfeld creation, which debuted in the 1980s. It was a simple yet genius design that brought the classic Chanel flap bag back to life because of its appeal to younger generations. The leather straps enveloped in metal chain links too were a purely Karl Lagerfeld addition. He once said, “luxury bags make your life more pleasant, make your dream, give you confidence and show your neighbors you are doing well.” Anyone who places a 2.55 bag over their shoulder can attest to what Karl was saying—he gave the flap bag emotion, purpose and satisfaction, all while never sacrificing Coco’s spirit in his designs. Last but not least, Karl Lagerfeld turned the Chanel flap bag into a valuable investment asset. A bag that originally sold for $220 in 1955 now retails for over $6,000.
However, with his successes came the inevitable notoriety surrounding his name. Karl became well known for his frank, to-the-point statements. “I am very much down to Earth, just not on this Earth,” he once said, embodying his penchant for witty remarks. Some viewed his blunt attitude as insensitive; others celebrated it as invigorating, but what is a legend without controversy? The public’s fascination with the eccentric figure—with his dark sunglasses, black leather gloves, chrome rings and powdery white ponytail—rivals that of Chanel herself, perhaps even surpassing the mademoiselle as we continue to mourn and remember the great Karl Lagerfeld. We can only hope that Chanel and Karl’s successor continue his forward thinking yet conserving-of-heritage mentality. And while we miss him greatly, his presence, his contributions and his legacy will never be forgotten.