Interest in the Hermès Birkin handbags 'will undoubtedly soar'

3 minutes

(Image: Jane Birkin courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum. Credit Mike Daines)

Meg Randell, Head of Bonhams Designer Handbags and Fashion, tells Private Clients Director Julie Webb she expects ‘uplift in secondary market’ after death of much-loved singer and fashion icon Jane Birkin. 

Birkin bags are perennially popular and, along with the Hermès Kelly, remain the most popular bags at auction.

With the sad passing of Jane Birkin interest in the Hermès Birkin will undoubtedly soar, says Meg Randell, Head of Bonhams Designer Handbags and Fashion.

Meg said: “As images of the beautiful singer with her well-loved Birkin feature throughout the news, we would anticipate a likely uplift in prices for the bag on the secondary market. Since her death there is also an increased interest in Birkin’s so-called Breton style as well as her handbag namesake.

“In terms of previous sales, we were honoured to offer Jane Birkin’s 1999 Hermès Birkin bag in July 2021. The bag was sold for a record-breaking £119,000 including buyer’s premium, five times its pre-sale estimate of £15,000 – £20,000. The Birkin 35 attracted attention from bidders and press worldwide, finally achieving the six-figure sum after a two-way telephone bidding battle – and earned applause from the saleroom.”

(Image: Jane Birkin's Black Togo Birkin 35, Sold for £119,000 including premium. Credit Bonhams.)

The Birkin

The Birkin came about in 1981 when the Hermès chief executive Jean Louis Dumas sketched it on an Air France sickbag while Jane Birkin, in the next seat, voiced that she needed a bag with pockets. From Birkin’s practical idea came the height of luxury.

The first Hermès Birkin bag, owned by Jane Birkin, was a standout item at the 2019 V&A ‘Bags: Inside Out’ exhibition which ran until January 2022. It was made in 1984 and, unlike the ones that followed, it had a shoulder strap. Bearing her initials, it was heavily used by Jane Birkin and showed residue of adhesive from the stickers she liked to apply to it.

Birkin donated the bag for auction to support the fight against AIDS in 1994 and it was acquired in 2000 by Catherine B, Hermès and Chanel bags collector and owner of Les 3 Marches boutique in Paris.

Bonhams’ forthcoming auctions

Bonhams holds more than 15 designer handbag and fashion auctions a year in London, Paris, Hong Kong and online. The next dates are:

The Art of Luxury: Chanel
September 11-21
Features numerous bags, clothes and accessories.
Knightsbridge, London

The Luxury Edit
Coming soon: Details on forthcoming November 23 Hermes auction to be released. Visit

(Fuschia Pink Ostrich Birkin 30 Hermès, 2008 Credit: Bonhams)

Check out your dressing room

Unique vintage Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton also attract strong sales, so it’s worth looking in the back of your dressing room for what’s in those dust covers.

What determines value?

The value of a handbag revolves around brand, colour, material, condition and rarity.  Generally, more exclusive brands command higher prices, with limited editions often commanding a premium due to scarcity. When it comes to materials, vintage or contemporary exotic leathers tend to fetch the highest prices.

Insuring your handbag

Whether you are a long-term collector or new to buying handbags, rising values of rare or unique items highlight the importance of regular valuations.

Insurers recommend that you obtain a valuation at least every five years, preferably three in today’s market. But check your insurance schedule and policy wording for specific requirements.

Insurers will require any valuation to be for “insurance purposes” and usually for retail value. You should also consider how you would replace your handbag in the event of a loss. Would you want a new replacement with a modern equivalent (New Replacement Value) or would you prefer an antique replacement (Antique Replacement Value)?

Ensure the handbags are photographed, kept in good condition and your documentation is in a safe place to help in the event of a claim.

It’s a good idea to send a copy of your valuations to your broker, whether or not the insurer requires it.

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