Handbags and Accessories

The Most Iconic and Collectible Hermès Bag: The Birkin Bag

By Lindsey Weiss
Buy the Most Iconic Hermès Bag; the Birkin Bag
Birkin Bag

The Most Iconic and Collectible Hermès Bag: The Birkin Bag

While the Hermès Kelly bag has a longer history, the Hermès Birkin bag is the most iconic and collectible. It remains the most sought-after by celebrities and the luxury handbag-obsessed collector. The Hermès bag’s design is a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas. The two met on a flight from Paris to London in 1984. Birkin confided in Dumas that she lacked a purse with appropriate functionality for her fast-paced lifestyle. Out of this conversation, the Birkin 40 in chic calfbox leather was born. The Birkin bag's practical design featuring two rolled handles, a flap top, clou “feet,” and a lock closure continues to resonate today.

The Birkin bag remains the most coveted Hermès bag thanks to its signature Hermès craftsmanship and exclusivity. The Birkin bag takes expert artisans a minimum of 18 hours to create and is marked with a code that identifies its year of creation, the workshop it was crafted in, and the artisan who made it. To buy a Birkin directly from Hermès, customers must have a purchase history with the brand. Hermès only allows boutiques to purchase a select number of Birkins on a bi-annual basis and the style of Birkin bag delivered to boutiques is rarely known ahead of time. As a result, customers must either make do with the available Birkin bag or patiently wait for the style they want to become available. Alternatively buyers can buy a Birkin Bag on a reputable marketplace like Sotheby's. Sotheby's has a selection of the most desirable Birkin Bags in leather and exotic materials. Additionally a Sotheby's Handbag Specialist is able to source a Birkin Bag in a desired color, size and material.

Birkin bags range in price from about $10,000 for a basic leather bag to over $200,000 for a crocodile and diamond style from Hermès and often sell for multiples of retail price on secondary marketplaces like Sotheby's depending on the condition, size, material and color. The Birkin is the most searched for of all Hermès bags.


Gold Birkin Bag

As the market for Hermès bags grows with new collectors purchasing their first Birkin every day, one aspect of Gold’s recent rise can be attributed to the First Birkin principle, which states:

“When someone has decided to buy their first Birkin, they will most likely choose a color that is both classic and versatile.”

More and more are answering this question with Gold. Over 4% of all Hermès bags sold at auction are Gold, and Black is the only color more common, comprising 15% of the market. While Hermès has a reputation for developing new and exciting colors every season, there are some shades that have been in continuous production for decades. Black is, of course, considered the most classic, but its counterpart Gold is also highly desired among collectors both fresh and seasoned. Gold in the world of Hermès does not have any metallic aspects like the Gold used to plate Hermès hardware, rather this Gold is meant to evoke the warmth and color of its namesake metal. This shade is loved for its versatility; sophisticated enough to wear with a camel coat and elegant attire, yet simultaneously casual enough to carry with jeans and a t-shirt. White contrast stitching is the most noticeable factor that differentiates Gold from other browns. This accentuates the craftsmanship that has come to define Hermès bags, highlighting the hand-double-saddle-stitched edges to great effect.

Pink Birkin Bag

Pink Birkin Bag

Hermès Pinks are among the brand’s most popular colors, though there can be massive disparities between the popularity and value of various shades of Pink. The lighter shades continue to be the most popular with buyers and collectors. The secondary market value of the most popular light pink shades sell at faster velocity and at a higher premium relative to retail. In 2022, Sotheby's sold a store fresh with all of the plastic intact L4 Bubblegum Ostrich Mini Kelly for $85,000. Another shade of pink that has held its popularity is Rose Sakure. Sotheby’s recently set a record price with the sale of a Rose Sakura Swift Bikin 25 for $64,230. Rose d’Ete also continues to sell high whenever examples come to auction, though bags in this shade, which is only slightly more saturated than Rose Sakura, are extremely rare. Rose Confetti, a pink introduced in 2014, has also proven popular over the years. The latest light pink from Hermès is Mauve Sylvestre, and is already popular with buyers. Resale prices for this newest light pink are exceeding all other shades. Mauve Pale, which is just now finding its way onto the market, is poised to be equally as popular. Mauve Sylvestre had no real predecessor to compare to, its slight tinge of purple a truly refreshing development.

White Birkin

Himalayan Birkin

The Hermès Himalayan takes its true inspiration from early crocodile handbags that, if not dyed black or brown, would be lightened to highlight the skin's natural coloring. This natural ombré went out of style as dyeing techniques improved and color created more and more possibilities for exotics. In the early 1990’s, Hermès began development on a new glossy ombré crocodile that would become known as Natura Vert Celadon. This bag is the first link in the himalayan chain that continues to grow to this day. In 2010, Jean-Paul Gaultier sent a Himalayan Birkin down the Hermès’ spring runway. From that moment on the Himalayan Birkin was the bag to have. The 30cm and 35cm Himalayan Birkin have been spotted dating back to 2008 and 2009 respectively. The first Himalaya Bikin 25cm wasn't released until 2012. Currently a 25cm Himalayan Birkin retails between $45,000 and $65,000 at Hermès (prices can vary by country and with local taxes). In the US the retail price is currently around $61,700. Larger styles retail for more. This trend, though, is reversed on the secondary market where smaller bags bring higher prices. The average value of the Himalayan Birkin 25 is the highest versus the larger Birkin 30 or 35. Himalayan Birkin also sells are a higher premium than other crocodile birkin bags.

White Birkin

Faubourg Birkin Bag

The Hermès Faubourg Birkin is one of the most sought-after limited edition Birkin bags. This Birkin Bag was released in 2019 as an homage to the Hermès storefront on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. Hermès CEO Charles-Émile Hermès relocated the brand’s flagship store to the iconic street in 1880, where it has remained ever since. The Hermès handbag features three windows with orange awnings, a shopping bag clochette, a matte alligator skin top flap, and alligator skin handles. This tiny 20 centimeter Birkin comes in various colors and can cost around $240,000. The Faubourg Birkin was an instant hit with collectors and continue to be among the most sought-after handbags on the market today. The first two Faubourg Birkins produced featured Day and Night colorations. Matte Alligator flaps atop Madame calfskin bodies, decorated with Swift window frames, Epsom glass and a Sombrero leather base. The awnings on all Faubourg Birkins are done in the brand’s iconic color: Orange H Swift, which matches the little Hermès shopping bag that replaces the key-holding clochette. Topped with Palladium hardware, this was the first iteration of a 20cm Birkin to be produced, and in Sellier construction nonetheless. In 2021 two new versions of the Faubourg Birkin were released: a Midnight or  Minuit edition done in almost all black, featuring PVD hardware reminiscent of that used in the So Black collection, and a snowy white version with a body of Matte Alligator and a flap in White Togo. The windows of the Neige Snow Faubourg are a frosty Blue Brume Chevre. Collecting all four of these adorable editions is referred to as a Place de Faubourg or Faubourg Square. In China the group is known as a Beijing Courtyard.

Hermès Birkin Bags Available For Purchase

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.

More from Sotheby's