Other celebrities – Pamela Anderson, Lady Gaga, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts – are some of Hermès Birkin fans. Selling at more than US$20,000 a pop for the cheapest range, Birkins are the most sought after bag in the world. Just like Rolexes, Birkins are good investment as a “carefully used” handbag could typically fetch at least 80% of its original price.
But Birkin handbags have also found its band of admirers among politicians too. Rosmah Mansor – wife of Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak – is a classic example of a politician’s wife whose craze for such luxury handbags has raised eyebrows over the source of her wealth – how could she splash tons of money on dozens of Hermès Birkin.
While it would be an interesting contest to see who has the most Birkins – Victoria Beckham or Rosmah Mansor – one thing is certain. Both women have more money than they could count. Victoria, the former “Spice Girls” member known as “Posh Spice” has an estimated wealth of more than US$300 million (£233 million; RM1.3 billion).
In comparison, Rosmah’s hubby, Prime Minister Najib, was exposed to have in his possession of US$681 million (RM2.6 billion at the peak of 1MDB scandal) in his personal banking accounts. When caught with his pants down, Mr. Najib claimed it was a donation from the Saudi royal family. Of course, nobody believes it was a donation but everybody believes it was due to corruption.
Now, if either Victoria Beckham or Rosmah Mansor owns some rare Himalaya Birkins, they could be sitting on a mountain of fortune, not that they need to auction off their beloved handbags for money. A matte white Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin 30 handbag was sold Wednesday in Hong Kong for over US$377,000 – a new world record.
Auction house Christie’s said the Hermes bag, which boasts 18 karat white gold and diamond hardware, was purchased by an unidentified buyer after 15 minutes of “intense” bidding. The handbag was sold for HK$2.94 million (US$377,261), making it the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction. However, it’s not the first Birkin 30 to command an eye-popping price.
In May 2016, an unidentified buyer at Christie’s in Hong Kong spent HK$2.32 million, or US$300,168, for a similar matte white Himalaya Niloticus crocodile diamond Birkin 30. It was a record at the time. A year before that in 2015, Christie’s broke a new record when another Himalaya Birkin was purchased for $223,000. It appears that the price keeps going up.
While both bags look nearly identical, the bag sold on Wednesday is encrusted with higher grade diamonds and features more gold. The handbag sold on Wednesday was produced in 2014 and has 18 karat gold buckles and strap loops encrusted with 205 diamonds. The one sold last year (for US$300,168) was produced in 2008.
Himalayan Birkins are considered the rarest, most sought-after handbags in the world. While Hermes won’t say how many they make, Christie’s believe only one or two are produced each year due to the painstaking and lengthy hours in its dyeing process. Even if you have the money, buying one is extremely difficult. The auction house said there is a 6-year waiting list to buy a new one.
The best part is you don’t simply walk into a store to buy a Birkin. You have to have a purchase history at the store to just get started. Even then, Hermès Birkin needs to “interview you”, assess how serious you are about spending, and then you go on their list. The key to getting a Birkin is to find someone who has a relationship with one of their “associates.”
The Himalayan Birkin handbags are made from Nilo crocodile hide that’s dyed in a laborious process, creating a white centre and gray edges that resemble the snow-capped Himalayas. And Himalaya Birkins get their name from the bag’s colour, which fades from smoky grey to pearly white, evoking comparisons with the mountain range.
The highly coveted bag was created in 1984 by French luxury label Hermes in honour of British singer and actress Jane Birkin. However, in 2015, Birkin asked Hermes to remove her name from the bags, because she was troubled by the “cruel practices” used to kill the crocodiles for the bags. Apparently, the scaly beasts would wriggle in agony for hours after their attempted slaughter.
For a celebrity to own 10 of such handbags, 20-30 crocodiles have to be sacrificed. Some customers have complained of spending thousands on the bags, only to find out that they smell of marijuana, or other distinctive odour. Still, Birkins are considered both an investment and a fashion accessory. Their values have increased by 500% over the past 35 years.
A recent study found that Birkin bags have performed better than both the American stock market and the price of gold in the last 35 years. According to the website Baghunter, the annual return on a Birkin bag is 14.2% compared to the S&P 500 index, which has increased by 8.7% a year, and gold, which was -1.5%. More importantly, they are like currency – you can cash out any time.
– Finance Twitter