The market for pre-owned Hermès bags, especially the classic Kelly and Birkin styles, has been growing for years, but now it is reaching new heights of specialisation and, dare one say it, nerdiness. Discontinued colours and skins, unusual sizes and particular details make all the difference. The rarer the bag, the greater its investment and, ultimately, resale value, and such objects have the same collector catnip effect as super-limited-edition watches or cars.
Tracking down such specimens takes brilliant contacts, endless patience and a degree of luck, and the growth of interest has created the new job category of bag hunter. One of the most successful is personal stylist Nicola Robinson, who found that many clients, especially in east Asia, had a deep interest in unique vintage bags that even auction houses had not realised, which is why she set up her specialist label Maia – named after the mother of Hermes in Greek mythology – to supply clients who, she says, “are always after a bag no one else has but would want, is unique and stands out from the crowd”.
Bags of the requisite standard – all are examined by an expert before being put on sale – are in short supply, however. While searching for a London outlet for her bags, a personal stylist introduced Robinson to Dover Street Market, where a dozen will go on sale on Wednesday July 13. Each one sold will be replaced, if possible, to keep supplies stable. The opening selection includes spectacular rarities such as a 1991 crocodile Kelly with gold hardware, in a discontinued size (£39,600, first picture), an early-1990s limited-edition 15cm calf box mini Kelly (£14,400), a discontinued 2004 matt crocodile Birkin with palladium hardware (£46,800, second picture), a very rare 1997 bi-colour Birkin (£16,800) and a 1995 version of the small Tea Time box bag (£3,600, third picture) so rare that Robinson has only ever seen five.
Each bag is presented in a specially designed protective Maia box because, says Robinson, “even if the bags are in perfect condition, the original boxes often are not”.