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July 10, 2013


Princess Grace of Monaco and her daughter Caroline, 1958

One of the most striking items in this photo is the Hermès bag Princess Grace is carrying.  Ironically, it became known as the 'Kelly bag' because Grace Kelly carried a similar one during her engagement to Prince Rainier.  Her preference for all things Hermès is still well known today.

Older Hermès bags are some of the most sought after in a thriving market for vintage handbags. But the only way that a Hermès product can be authenticated is by the Hermès company.  Every item that they manufacture is imprinted with a unique identification number;  the company can quickly determine the year in which a specific bag was manufactured and where it was sold. 

Hermès vintage Eben Porosus Crocodile Kelly satchel;  $30,000

Hermès Parchemin Togo Retourne Kelly Travel Satchel;  $13,500

This Hermès Diamond Birkin bag set the record as the most expensive handbag
ever sold at public auction.  The winning bid?  $203,150.00.  Not only is it an
unusual bag - dyed red crocodile - but it was originally sold as a limited edition.

What is the difference between a Kelly bag and a Birkin bag?
The Kelly bag only has one handle; the Birkin bag has two.

As with all collector and specialty sales, remember:  caveat emptor (buyer beware.)  Many online auction sites allow listings which claim that their items are authentic but upon close inspection the fakes are usually easy to spot:
I'm guessing that this 'authentic 1998 Hermès Orange Beach
bag' isn't actually authentic because 1) the price - $375; and
2) the 'certificate of authenticity' is printed in Chinese.

The bag, above, is listed on the same site as the orange beach bag but this bag might actually be authentic.  Why?  The SKU identification number is listed and can be easily authenticated; the seller has sold almost 5,000 items on this site and has had almost 99% positive feedback (satisfaction rate) with previous buyers.

Soooooooooo, you might be asking yourself, "If I were interested in
investing in a new Hermès bag, what am I likely to pay?"   The official
Hermès USA site has a tan cotton beach bag for $960.00 with a new
limited edition crocodile bag running almost $30,000. 

Why are Hermès bags so expensive?  The demand, of course.  Hermès has a
buying restriction in Paris - one person may only buy two bags a year.
The company's reasoning?  They insist that because every bag is made by
hand there isn't enough supply to satisfy demand.  Currently there is
a 3 month waiting list for a new Kelly bag.

No Hermès bag for me but I'll definitely be on the lookout for vintage designer bags at the non-profit thrift shops I frequent.   
I might get lucky like John Richard, above, an Englishman who purchased a bag for $30 at a charity shop which turned out to be a vintage Philip Treacy original appraised at over $500,000.  Designed by Andy Warhol, the 'Elvis bag' was one of only 10 ever produced.  

Happy thrifting!


  1. Excuse my drool...

    I'm a handbag girl. Love them. Would love a Birken bag (because I needs my two handles). But I have things like a mortgage. And childcare. Killjoys.

    1. Yea, those pesky mortgages, insurance payments, orthodontia bills, groceries and utility bills seem to suck the fashion budget out of most of us! It's great to dream, though. I've thought about springing for a faux reproduction of a designer bag at the flea market but I'm convinced the International Knock Off Police are lurking behind a booth and would arrest me as soon as I handed the guy $50 for an 'authentic' Dooney & Bourke! -- Jan

  2. Beautiful bags, but not going to be part of my closet here.:-)

    1. You and me both! I don't think I could sleep at night if I knew I had a $30,000 purse sitting on the kitchen counter. Guess if it was worth that much I'd have to frame it in a shadow box. There are soooooooooooooo many other things I'd buy with $30k! -- Jan

  3. I knew it was Princess Grace even before I read the caption - she was always so elegant. Well, I will certainly look a little closer at the thrift store offerings! Although the chances are slim out here in farm country! But you never know.....I love the Kelley Travel Satchel! xo

    1. Tomorrow my Mom and I are leaving for a road trip so I decided to stop in at one of my favorite thrift shops that is run by the Humane Society. I found TWO pairs of vintage Ralph Lauren sunglasses for $1 each! Both have the right markings and serial numbers; one is dated 1971. Checked on eBay and they're each listed between $20 and $40 - not bad for a Thrift Shop Pit Stop! haha -- Jan

  4. Unbelievable find there at the end! Can you imagine? I love that photo of Grace Kelly. She was such a beautiful woman. I can remember how sad it was when she was killed. xo Diana

    1. The day Princess Grace died and the day that Princess Diana died are two that I'll never forget. Both should have lived to a very old age. It's stories like John Richard's that add a little extra spice to thrift shop browsing, isn't it? -- Jan (P.S. I could have walked past that Andy Warhol/Philip Treacy purse a dozen times and not had an idea that it was valuable!)

  5. Beautiful handbags. But alas I would terrified to actually use it.

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