Complete Guide to Collecting Vintage Chanel Bags
Chanel bag

Complete Guide to Collecting Vintage Chanel Bags

Learn More About the Most Iconic Vintage Chanel Bags
Learn More About the Most Iconic Vintage Chanel Bags

Coco Chanel introduced one of the most iconic luxury bags in February 1955. The Chanel 2.55 Flap remains instantly recognizable and is one of the most sought-after vintage Chanel bags. Named after its release date, the 2.55 revolutionized women's fashion by offering a hands-free option with its elegant chain strap. The bag features the signature Mademoiselle lock, quilted leather exterior, and burgundy lining, inspired by the uniforms at the convent where Coco Chanel grew up. Its classic design and versatile style make the 2.55 a timeless piece.

An evolution of the 2.55, the Classic Flap Bag was reintroduced by Karl Lagerfeld in the 1980s with a few modern updates. The most notable addition is the interlocking CC lock, which has become synonymous with the Chanel brand. The Classic Flap Bag is available in various sizes and materials, including lambskin, caviar leather, and tweed. Its quilted pattern, chain-link strap, and double flap closure contribute to its status as a perpetual favorite among fashion elite and collectors. The most collectible Vintage Chanel bags are from 1980s to 1990s. A black classic double flap in lambskin from before 2008 remains one of the most sought after when it comes to Vintage Chanel bags.

The Most Collectible Vintage Chanel Bags

Learn more about the most collectible Vintage Chanel bags.

1. Chanel Bags 1980-1990s

Chanel Mini Top Handle Flap 1990s

The 1980s marked a significant period for Chanel, characterized by the revival and reinterpretation of the brand's classic designs under the creative direction of Karl Lagerfeld. He reintroduced the Classic Flap Bag, adding the now-iconic interlocking CC lock. The 1980s was a transformative decade for Chanel, with Karl Lagerfeld infusing new life into the brand. His designs from this era reflect a blend of modernity and classic Chanel elegance, marking a pivotal moment in the brand's history. Karl continued to evolve the brand’s aesthetic in the 1990s with bold and innovative collections combining traditional Chanel elements with modern, avant-garde designs.

2. Black Chanel Classic Flap Vintage Lambskin

Black Vintage Chanel Classic Double Flap Lambskin

There is no Chanel bag more iconic than a black Chanel bag in lambskin with gold hardware. Chanel stopped using 24-karat gold-plated hardware on their bags around the early 2000s. Specifically, the transition began around 2008. Before this, Chanel bags featured hardware that was plated with real gold, which gave the pieces their distinctive luxurious shine and a heavier feel. After the change, Chanel moved to using a gold-toned or metal alloy for their hardware, which is less costly and also changed the look and feel of the hardware. Bags before 2008 that have the 24-karat gold-plated hardware are now highly collectible since they are no longer made. The demand for vintage bags with gold-plated hardware remains very high among collectors. Vintage Black Chanel Lambskin bags also develop a unique patina that makes older bags in excellent condition even more desirable to some collectors than a new Chanel lambskin bag.

3. Chanel Alligator Bags

Vintage Chanel Alligator Mini Flap, 1996-1997

Chanel, along with several other luxury fashion brands, made a significant shift in its sourcing of exotic animal skins in the late 2010s. Specifically, Chanel announced in December 2018 that it would stop using exotic skins, including alligator, crocodile, lizard, and snake. This decision was part of a broader move towards ethical and sustainable practices within the fashion industry. The difficulty in sourcing these materials responsibly and the growing consumer demand for cruelty-free fashion were key factors in this decision. Alligator Chanel bags are highly collectible since Chanel stopped making them in 2018. The most desirable Alligator Chanel bags in classic shapes including the classic double flap, single flap and the mini flap.

4. Chanel Minaudiere

Chanel Minaudiere Paris Dubai Night Gas Tank Jarry Can, 2015

Every season Chanel releases limited edition Minaudières in whimsical designs making these Chanel mini evening bags highly collectible. The meticulous details on the more unique Chanel Minaudières are a reflection of Chanel's attention to detail and craftsmanship. Chanel Minaudières are also made in very limited numbers, adding to their collectability. While most Chanel Minaudières sell for between $10,000-$20,000 on the secondary market, some collections can sell for much higher. A Chanel Gold Lambskin Paris Dubai Gas Tank Jerry Can Paris Dubai Gold Hardware Minaudière featured on the 2015 Chanel Cruise collection sold for $33,600 during Sotheby's New York Handbag sale in 2024.

Buying and Selling Vintage Chanel at Sotheby's

Sotheby's has several ways to buy collectible and vintage Chanel bags. The largest assortment of vintage Chanel bags can be found on Sotheby's marketplace. The selections changes regularly but expect to the find classic lambskin flaps, limited edition bags from past seasons and discontinued exotic Chanel bags. Sotheby's also offers a select number of Chanel bags at auction in New York, Zurich, Paris, and Hong Kong every year, most are priced at No Reserve. You can also contact a Salon Associate in New York to schedule an appointment to view and purchase a vintage Chanel bag. If you have vintage Chanel bags to sell, you can contact a Handbag Specialist to learn more about your selling options or submit your item here.

Available For Immediate Purchase

Handbags & Fashion Buy Now Handbags & Accessories

About the Author

More from Sotheby's

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top