Hermes Kelly bag fetches record price at Sotheby’s auction

A Hermes handbag fetched a record price for a Sotheby’s auction, the latest evidence that rare luxury items are increasingly seen as stores of value by investors and wealthy buyers.

The Himalaya Retourne Kelly 25 bag sold for €352,800 ($346,802) in a Paris auction that ended Thursday, Sotheby’s said. The crocodile-skin handbag in mother-of-pearl white, reminiscent of a snowy mountain landscape, sold for almost three times Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate.

This model is viewed as a “real investment for the long term,” said Morgane Halimi, global head of handbags and accessories at Sotheby’s. It’s also “one of the hardest bags to obtain” in a Hermes boutique, helping to explain its resale price, she said.

The bag, manufactured this year, cost “a few tens of thousands” of euros at retail, she said.

The Kelly started out as Hermes’ sac à dépêches in the 1930s, but got its nickname (and, later, official moniker) after Princess Grace Kelly was photographed carrying one in 1956.

The record price for a luxury bag at auction is still held by Christie’s, the Francois Pinault-owned auction house, which sold a Himalaya Retourne Kelly bag for 4 million Hong Kong dollars ($510,000) last November. That one featured diamond hardware and was slightly bigger.

Christie’s is holding a sale beginning on Nov. 3 that will include a Himalaya Sellier Kelly 25 bag, also manufactured this year, a representative said.

Smaller handbags tend to be preferred by buyers, who are frequently women — quite rare at auctions — often in their 30s and 40s, Halimi said.

Hermes International is trying to boost its production capacity for leather goods because demand exceeds supply. – BLOOMBERG

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