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Designer Handbags: What Should Be in Your Collection?

There are several reasons why Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès and Gucci typically make the cutoff in Forbes’ annual roundup of the most valuable brands globally. In the world of luxury leather goods and designer handbags, these storied fashion houses and their glamorous, iconic logos (including the exquisite Saint Laurent—formerly Yves Saint Laurent) hold the top spots in consumer recognition and product performance, as well as desire and aspiration.

Luxury designer handbags are style investments that stand the test of time. Because many of these bags are produced in limited runs or are sometimes discontinued, collectors and brand devotees often seek out used designer handbags in the resale market. An authentic designer handbag is always in demand.

The Lure of Louis Vuitton

Founded in Paris in 1854 by highly skilled trunk maker Louis Vuitton, this legendary fashion house is consistently ranked as the most valuable luxury brand in the world.

It boasts the monogram of monograms, the famous LV, which features on its luxury trunks, leather goods, handbags, wallets and more.

Louis Vuitton trunks, totes and the famous Speedy bag have been photographed on or with famous writers, rappers, athletes and celebrities who favor these hardworking, lightweight and seemingly indestructible coated-canvas bags. Louis Vuitton bags also come in a range of leathers and treatments, always featuring meticulous stitching and top-notch craftsmanship.

To own a Louis Vuitton is to delight in how it serves you year after year as you put it to the test at elegant parties or casual get-togethers–or at your coworking space where your spacious Neverfull tote stylishly transports your laptop and daily essentials. In early 2021, a gently used Neverfull tote pulled in more than $1,200 on eBay. A pre-owned classic Speedy 30 bag also fetched over a $1,000. 

Every Chanel Is an Icon

For French designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, her triumph and legacy were freeing women from fussy fabrics, clothing and accessories that hampered movement, while elevating their elegance to new heights.

From the February 1955 introduction of the 2.55 bag–including the first shoulder straps seen on women’s designer handbags–to the 1983 redesign featuring the now iconic interlocking CC clasp, Chanel bags continue to make history. 

The luscious burgundy hue on the interior of the famous Flap bag recalls the exact color of the uniform worn by Chanel during her years at the Aubazine Abbey orphanage. The luxe quilting she debuted with the 2.55 bag was inspired by quilting on jackets worn by stablehands. Other rich details included a front zippered pocket on the bag’s top, a back slip pocket and a middle pocket shaped perfectly for a lipstick. 

Pre-owned Chanel bags and wallets continue to draw handsome sums at estate auctions and on eBay. A quilted leather 2.55 re-issue wristlet, pre-owned, sold on eBay for more than $800 in January 2021. The Double Flap bag in black lambskin fetched nearly $3,000 in November 2020 and a Grand Shopping Tote in red quilted Caviar leather was a hot item in January 2021, selling for over $3,000 at auction.

Hermès–A Legacy of Refinement

Celebrated for its luxurious handmade luggage, handbags, silk scarves and home furnishings, the legendary House of Hermès proudly carries on its legacy as an independent, family-owned business. 

Thierry Hermès established his award-winning harness workshop in Paris in the 1800s to serve European nobility. Creativity and craftsmanship passed down through six generations is evident to this day, where artisans carefully turn out immaculate bags by hand.

The most famous Hermès bags include the Kelly bag and of course, the ever-desired Birkin bag. The Kelly bag was created in 1935 as the Sac à dépêches. It later came to be known as the Kelly bag thanks to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, who was widely photographed holding the bag in front of her stomach– supposedly to shield her pregnancy from the press. A pre-owned Kelly bag can garner several thousands of dollars, like a lime hued calfskin model that sold on eBay in February 2021 for over $8,000.

The iconic Birkin bag, named for English actress Jane Birkin, was designed collaboratively by Hermès Executive Chairman Jean-Louis Dumas and Birkin. Meeting on a flight from Paris to London, the actress complained of not having a bag of the right proportions to hold her essentials. To this day, the Birkin bag, with its unmistakable padlock and sleek silhouette, is considered the world’s most wanted (and expensive) handbag. And its value continues to increase. In early 2021, a used Birkin bag could cost anywhere from $6,700 to more than $16,252 for a 2016 model. The most expensive handbag ever sold was a white Himalaya crocodile Birkin auctioned in 2017 for a staggering $379, 261.  

Get Your Gucci 

Gucci is a luxury fashion house founded in 1921 and based in Florence, Italy. A label heavy-hitter among young trendsetters as well as fashion mavens, Gucci offers luxury leather goods, handbags, clothing, footwear, beauty and home furnishings.

Like Louis Vuitton, the label found its origins in luggage making. When a League of Nations embargo in 1935 made leather hard to come by, Gucci founder Guccio Gucci turned to alternate materials, and the tonal-brown patterned GG Diamante canvas was born. It debuted on a series of suitcases in the 1930s and is an instantly recognizable and iconic fixture on some of the brand’s handbag styles and wallets to this day. 

The Jackie Hobo shot to fame in 1961 when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was pictured carrying this shoulder bag. It’s now available in a variety of lush leathers as well as the GG Supreme canvas, in several sizes for both men and women. A pre-owned Jackie Hobo bag in logo canvas fetched a solid sum of $375 in an early 2021 eBay auction, while models rendered in luxurious leathers were pulling in several hundred dollars more.

The Gucci Bamboo handle bag arrived on the scene in 1947, sported by mega-watt stars like Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor. Gucci continues to produce iterations of this bag, featuring another archival detail, the Gucci belt buckle from the 1970s. You can’t go wrong with any version of these hot bags, as their star continues to rise. Simple pre-owned Bamboo handle bags could earn $1,500 in the first months of 2021, while more elaborate styles with bells and whistles– like the Dionysus 2-way leather bag with Bamboo top handle–sold for as much as $2,500 on eBay.

Similar to the Saint Laurent Lou, the Gucci Soho Disco is petite and irresistible. A crossbody bag featuring a dangling tassel and interlocking stamped GG monogram, the Soho is crafted from buttery soft leather and is surprisingly roomy despite its compact size. This little prize in grained leather fetched as much as $1,100 on eBay in late 2020.

Saint Laurent Bags–Arm Allure for Every Sophisticate

No designer handbag collection is complete without the sleek lines and unmatched sensuality of a Saint Laurent (YSL) purse.

The glamorous French fashion house was established in 1961 by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, and now adopts the name ‘Saint Laurent’ since Creative Director Hedi Slimane gave the brand a makeover in 2012. The famed label now flourishes under the creative direction of Anthony Vaccarello.

Though relatively new to the handbag game compared to some peer brands–Tom Ford expanded the YSL product line to include branded handbags in the 2000s–YSL handbags have a cult-like following for good reason and are highly sought after by collectors, stylists, socialites and stars.

Whether you’re lusting after a stunning LouLou in soft quilted leather or the petite and perfect Lou–modeled after a camera bag and featuring an eye-catching tassel–Saint Laurent purses are a great investment and some of the hottest handbags around. A LouLou Metalassé bag in quilted leather sold for more than $2,400 in early 2021, while a gently used Lou bag fetched $1,358 on eBay.