Handbags & Accessories

Why You Should Buy Your Next Hermès Bag at Auction

By Lucy Bishop
Hong Kong Auction Open for Bidding thru Feb 6 Hermès Birkins, Kelly Bags and More.

Hermès Himalaya Birkin and Hermès Himalaya Kelly

Why Buy Handbags & Accessories At Auction?

Sotheby’s is known globally for extraordinary Luxury and Fine Art auctions. One of the most recent additions to the Luxury category is Handbags and Accessories. Online handbag auctions are held in New York, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Cologne, Milan and Geneva. You’ll find a selection of the rarest and most sought-after styles from Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. Sotheby’s combines its unparalleled customer service, expertise, and global reach to offer global buyers an exciting auction experience. Whether one is looking to buy or sell luxury handbags at auction, Sotheby’s is the ultimate destination.

While we are all familiar with purchasing luxury items in-store or through e-commerce platforms, many people don’t think to look for luxury handbags at auction. Since the most desirable designer bags are often sold out in stores and waiting lists can be long, auctions are a great option. Luxury handbag auctions have a few additional factors to consider when buying, but they are a great way to source your dream bag. If you're not sure where to start, or simply don't know the benefits of buying this way, this guide will provide all the details you need to confidently buy handbags at auction.

Hermès Kelly 25 Madison 706


From fine art and antiques to jewels and luxury handbags, Sotheby’s specialists have tremendous expertise regarding each and every item offered for sale. If you’re investing in an Hermès Birkin or a Chanel Classic Flap Bag, you want to be sure it’s authentic, and an established auction house offers that guarantee. Handbags offered in auctions have fantastic provenance, often coming from a luxury brand’s top customers.
Hermès Gris Perle and Kraft Matte Alligator Mini Kelly II 20 HSS Gold Hardware, 2021

Hermès Birkin 20 Sellier Alligator Gris Ciment


Sotheby’s handles everything from rare, record-breaking Crocodile diamond Birkins and Himalaya Kelly Bags to classic staples, like Chanel Double Flap bags and Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull totes. Sotheby’s Specialists curate sales to include rare exotic bags, the best of the classics and limited edition pieces in a range of price points that have long-lasting value. You can always expect an assortment in price and style. The biggest misconception of handbag auctions is that every bag has a six figure reserve, but this is not the case! You’ll also find a selection of modern bags from the last five years to the best vintage bags that are 20, 30, or even 40+ years old.

Discover Something New

Exploring a Sotheby’s Handbags & Accessories auction is a great way to find your wishlist bag or discover something new. Sotheby’s Specialists are always on the hunt for unique bags and accessories that have never been sold before or rarely available in the secondary market. You may find a pristine vintage Hermes Kelly bag, rare Chanel runway bag or a limited edition Louis Vuitton Speedy from a Marc Jacobs era artist collaboration. Given Sotheby’s global reach, you’ll also discover bags that were only sold in Japan, France or Italy. Most auctions will also have some no reserve lots which means bidding starts at 1 dollar local currency.

Hermès Kelly 20 I Black Crocodile 18K Yellow Gold and Diamond Hardware 1990s


There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a luxury handbag on the secondary market, and Sotheby’s ensures that buyers have all the necessary information. Make sure you read the Condition Report on all lots that interest you. Condition Reports are prepared by Sotheby’s specialists prior to auction and document the condition of an item in detail. Make sure you’re happy with the condition before you purchase.

Hermès Kelly Elan Etoupe Madame, 2023


Sotheby’s will also indicate whether a bag comes with CITES documentation, which is only applicable to certain exotic skin bags. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) protects endangered species, classifying them according to the level of threat they face. When it comes to import and export of luxury handbags, there are varying restrictions depending on the exotic skin used. For someone who travels internationally, it is extremely important to have a CITES certificate for an exotic-skin bag. The CITES documentation proves that an item is not derived from an endangered species, thus preventing confiscation at customs.
Hermès Bleu France Swift and Toile Birkin 25 Palladium Hardware, 2022

Limited Edition Hermès Kelly 25 Tri-color Chai, Lime and Mauve Sylvestre, 2023

A Buying Breakdown

From object selection to successful bid placement and shipping your purchase, Sotheby’s staff offers a streamlined buying process. A helpful resource in navigating the auction experience is Sotheby’s glossary of terms.

Hermès Mini Kelly 20 Rose Sakura Chevre Mysore

3 Ways to See What’s For Sale

  1. Browse the e-catalogues & calendar on Sotheby’s website from your computer or mobile device
  2. Visit presale exhibitions that are open to the public
  3. Register for email alerts so you never miss an auction


While Sotheby’s occasionally features handbags and accessories in live auction events, most sales for this category are held online. You can bid on your desktop, tablet or mobile device from anywhere in the world, regardless of where the sale is being held. Sales are typically run for about two weeks. We recommend setting Maximum Bids at the beginning of the sale, which enables the bidding platform to place incremental bids on your behalf up to the maximum amount specified. If you’re outbid, you will be notified by push notifications (if enabled) and email so you never miss a thing. Outbid emails give you a “Quick Bid” option that lets you get back in the action right away at the next available increment.

For more information, visit the How to Bid page. Be sure to download the new and improved Sotheby’s app for iOS or Android to utilize all the great features it has to offer, from tracking your active bids to scrolling through a personalized feed built just for you.

Selling with Sotheby’s

Looking to sell? Head over to the Sell with Sotheby's page. As the world’s largest, most trusted and dynamic marketplace for art and luxury, Sotheby’s consistently achieves prices that meet or exceed pre-sale estimates. Based on these preliminary estimates, Sotheby’s specialists recommend the most effective way to sell property, whether it be in a live or online-only auction, as a private sale, on the Buy Now marketplace.

In three simple steps, Sotheby’s expert staff is there to guide clients through the entire process of selling at auction. First, is discovering what a property’s worth. Once a seller has submitted photographs and all the relevant information regarding a luxury handbag, it is in the hands of the specialists to establish estimates, catalogue, and then market to prospective buyers around the world. Also, it is worth noting that an online estimate is entirely free of charge. Next, is the shipping and insurance. While the consignor is responsible for packing, shipping and insurance charges, Sotheby’s staff arranges the delivery of property to the site of the auction. Lastly, is the pricing and payment. The seller’s contract documents the agreed upon reserve price and seller’s commission, so there are no surprises at auction. For sold lots, payments are issued within 45 days from the initial sale.

Hermès Birkin 25 Ciel Togo

You Didn’t Win At Auction, Now What?

Auctions can be unpredictable, and getting outbid is always a possibility. But, there’s a chance your dream bag is waiting for you on Sotheby’s Buy Now Marketplace. No bidding war or auction registration necessary, as all handbags and accessories are available for immediate purchase at a fixed price.

If you still can’t find that perfect item, or need assistance with selling, Sotheby’s specialists are always available, so contact us by email or phone.

Available for Immediate 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