In June, an Hermès Himalayan Nilo Crocodile Birkin handbag sold at auction in Hong Kong for just more than $300,000. Prices, particularly for the rarest Birkin bags, have reached fever pitch, in large part due to the French luxury goods manufacturer’s policy of restricting supply. "The reality is that the top brand names have a very high retail price and the opportunity to buy them at auction represents a chance to buy them at a discount," says Stephen Whittaker, MD of Fellows Auctioneers. "It is not just a case of having a waiting list — it’s the ability to get on that waiting list that is challenging." Handbags have become big business. The JustCollecting Rare Handbag index, which tracks investment-grade bags, increased by just under 8% a year between 2004 and 2016. During the course of that 12-year period, the standout star — the Chanel 2.55 Medium Classic Flap Bag — has risen in value by more than 230%. The Chanel bag at auction nowadays would set you back roughly $5,000, up fro...

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