Heads up, purse junkies!

Christie’s Auctions Luxury Purses

The Resale Evangelista

If you’ve been pining for an Hermes Kelly bag, a Chanel Classic, a Louis Vuitton satchel or some other concoction of arm candy, now’s your chance to get one–well, not cheap, but at least at reduced cost. Christie’s is conducting an online auction of luxury brand purses and accessories now through June 12.

Bargains? That’s for you to decide, but the prices are decidedly less than comparable new bags.

The bid on a cherry red Chanel bag from 2004-2005  is currently 950 British pounds, or approximately $1,600. A similar bag in black—considered the “beginner’s Chanel,” according to a sales representative at Neiman Marcus—is currently bid at 900 GBP.  Considering that there’s a waiting list for new Chanel Classics, and the price is $5,500, these are bargains for the purse diva who must have a Chanel.

Cherry Red Chanel BagPurses—particularly high-end or designer labels—are Number One on my list of 10 things that should always be purchased used or, if you prefer a more genteel term, “previously loved.” Although the value of a new designer bag may not drop as precipitously as the value of a new car once it’s off the lot, why pay retail when you can find a recent model for less than half the cost? (By the way–I’m not buying Chanel, Hermes or Louis Vuitton; I paid $12 at Goodwill for my hot pink, no-name summer purse. Bargains come in all price ranges.)

The cost of a new Chanel 2.55 Classic goes up every year, sometimes twice, according to a Chanel purse clerk at Neiman Marcus.

Inevitable price increases are Number One on Amanda Mull’s list of 10 reasons to own a Chanel bag and to buy it now. Chanel, she writes on Purseblog.com, is “among the masters of the crippling price increase, jacking up the MSRPs of its bags every six months to a year.” If you’re going to buy a Chanel, she says, you may as well buy it now before the next price rise. She adds that “constantly rising prices keep the timeless flap bags fairly easy to resell for close to…what you paid.”

Besides, those who buy new Chanel bags tend to treat them very, very gently. They are often stored in their original dust bags. I know of one woman who keeps her eleven Chanel bags—all purchased brand new—in a climate-controlled closet. (She confided that she once bought three black Chanel purses at one time; one had a silver-toned chain, another had a gold-tone chain and the third was patent-leather, for dressier occasions.) Therefore, the secondhand bags tend to be in very good condition.

By the way, according to Purseblog.com, Chanel didn’t make the list of the top 10 most expensive new bags for Spring 2014. That “honor” went to a Gucci Soft Stirrup Crocodile Shoulder Bag, for $32,000. The list covers only “seasonal” bags—those that are produced in limited quantity for only a year.

Chanel bags come in two types of leather, Caviar and Lambskin. The prices of the two are about the same.  Lambskin is just that—lambskin. It is softer but much more fragile than Caviar.

Caviar is tanned stingray skin (you can see why Chanel went with “Caviar”—it sounds much more luxurious than “fish skin,” don’t you think?) The Caviar pebbled leather is practically indestructible, resisting scratches and stains. Lollipuff has an informative post about the difference between the two types of leather.

How do I know it’s real?

My NM purse clerk declined to enumerate the hallmarks of an authentic Chanel bag. “You’ll know it is authentic because we sell it and we say it is,” he informed me. Clearly, the idea of someone buying a (sniff) pre-owned Chanel was abhorrent to him. I believe he suspected me of plotting to manufacture knock-offs.

(I get a shiver of pleasure just writing the phrase “purse clerk,” knowing the term would cause a shudder of horror were my purse clerk to hear it applied to him. He was young, very slender, with hair carefully styled to look unstyled and a European-ish accent. He spoke to me in an appropriately condescending manner despite the fact that I had just had my make-up done at the Chanel cosmetic counter in order to present the proper appearance in the Chanel purse enclave.)

However, there are many web posts that give you the skinny. Here’s a YouTube post from VintageHeirloom.com and another from eBay on how to spot a fake Chanel.

As far as I’m concerned, the best way to ensure you are buying an authentic pre-owned Chanel or other luxury bag is to buy from a reputable vendor, one who guarantees authenticity. There are a number of sites that resell designer bags. Typically, the purses will resell for about half their retail price. Tradsey.com recently listed a cherry red Chanel bag for $2,850. If you hunt around your local resell stores, you may find one for less.

Need more reasons you should shell out for a Chanel, new or used? Mull at Purseblog points out, in her Dec. 2013 post, that “legendary actresses, socialites and royals have carried this bag and, hey, if you can’t marry a prince, you can at least buy the same bag as the women who do.” Also, she says, a Chanel classic is the “go-to accessory” for a young woman who wants to signal that she has matured into a fashionable lady.

So don’t forget, Purse Mommies, graduation is coming up. Now may be a good time to both give a memorable gift and teach your daughter thriftiness (of a sort) at the same time.

The Resale Evangelista has nothing against luxury consumer goods. She just advocates spending carefully when indulging the urge to splurge.

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