The latest global auction craze

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NEW YORK: Designer handbags are the latest craze taking global auction houses by storm and fetching record prices. Texas-based Heritage Auctions, which calls itself the market leader in luxury accessories, holds its New York spring sale on Monday — and is more than upbeat about how well it’s going to go.

Of the 800 lots going under the hammer, the most expensive is an Hermes “Birkin” in shiny bla­ck crocodile, complete with a padlock and diamond and white gold clasp, valued between $80,000 and $100,000. The second costliest is another “Birkin” in crocodile red with violet trim, gold clasp and special horseshoe ornament prominently placed in the $70,000 to $90,000 price tag range.

In the luxury auction market, Hermes bags are by far the most prized, especially those named after British actress Jane Birkin and the “Kelly” line that channels the late Princess Grace of Monaco.

In the luxury accessories category, which Heritage created in 2010, Hermes is followed by Chanel and Louis Vuitton, ahead of Gucci, Prada and Celine, says Rubinger.

The auction house has sold eight of the 10 world records, including the reigning record of $203,150 for a red crocodile “Birkin” measuring a mere 30 centimetres (12 inches) sold in Dallas, Texas, on December 6, 2011.

Heritage is not the only auction house to take advantage of the new boom. Bonhams in Los Angeles, Christie’s of London and Artcurial based in Paris all offer luxury accessories.

The day after Heritage’s New York sale, Artcurial, which holds two of the 10 record sales, follows suit with a “Vintage Hermes” auction offering hundreds of handbags from the famous Parisian brand.

Among the most expensive is a 35 centimetre (14 inch) Birkin in matte brown crocodile valued at 30,000 to 35,000 euros ($41,520 to $48,440) and a 30 centimetre (12 inch) Birkin in black matte crocodile estimated at 14,000 to 16,000 euros.

“Every sale rose on the last,” said the 26-year-old director of luxury accessories, Matthew Rubinger, at Heritage.—AFP

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