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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Hefty Bids In the Bags

When Heritage Auctions first put expensive handbags on the block a few years ago, a big question hung over the accessories: Should they be marveled as art or, well, used as bags?

It seems a bit of both.

Whatever their use, rare handbags are officially a big draw in Beverly Hills – the newest stop on Heritage’s handbag auction circuit. Some $2.8 million worth of clutches, purses and other totes were sold at Heritage’s Sept. 23 event at its Beverly Hills gallery.

The most expensive cost as much as a luxury car. The average price was close to $11,000.

Matt Rubinger, director of the luxury category at Heritage, said Los Angeles is fertile ground for high-end bag sales. The company’s previous handbag auctions were held in New York and Dallas.

“We were underrepresented in Los Angeles,” he said.

The event brought in about 75 bidders and lasted about 12 hours.

The biggest-ticket handbag was a matte bougainvillea crocodile skin number made by Hermes. It sold for $106,250 to a buyer who bid remotely from New York.

Heritage charges handbag buyers a 25 percent fee on top of the purchase price, although the fee is slightly lower for items that sell for $100,000 or more.

Rubinger said many buyers do actually intend to use their bags, but others display them as art objects or see them as investments.

It’s a growing line of business for Heritage, which intends to bring the handbag auction back to Beverly Hills next year.

Some men have a hard time understanding a six-figure bag, said Peggy Gottlieb, a jewelry specialist at Heritage, but the handbag market is surely not just for women.

“A lot of the husbands get interested,” she said. “The men get just as excited and enthusiastic and competitive in their bidding as the women.”

– Jonathan Polakoff

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