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Big-name designer handbags come in clutch at Nov. 23 auction

On Wednesday, November 23, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will offer a sale of Designer Handbags and Clutches – more than 750 lots of pieces by virtually every great brand name in the category. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Markedly well represented in the lineup is Louis Vuitton, which contributes a GO-14 mini chain shoulder bag in embossed, dyed red lambskin; a Grenelle PM bag in rose ballerine pink Epi grained cowhide leather; an Eye Love You multicolor noir Takashi Murakami limited edition monogram canvas handbag; and a Christopher PM Damier graphite backpack with a rainbow logo.

Yves Saint Laurent Carre shoulder bag in royal purple calfskin leather, estimated at $3,000-$3,500

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 presents its next Luxury Fashion Auction, Nov. 2

An I. Mangin black mini evening dress, a Gucci Lady Lock black leather shoulder bag, and a vintage Leonard of Paris vivid blue midi dress will likely earn top lot status at Jasper52’s Luxury Fashion Auction, which will be held on Wednesday, November 2 beginning at 5 pm Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

With fall in full effect, it’s no surprise that several lots in the 368-lot sale showcase jackets and outerwear. Offerings include a Gianfranco Ferre long black wool coat with belt; a vintage Hermes blue suede jacket; a Valentino silver-tone black leather jacket festooned with turquoise studs; a Dolce & Gabbana mini trench coat in gray; a quilted brown leather Moto jacket with the word GUCCI emblazoned across the upper back in pink velvet and pearls; and a navy blazer jacket by Ralph Lauren.

Leonard of Paris blue midi dress with belt, estimated at $1,500-$2,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

How to spot a genuine Hermes Birkin bag

An Hermes Birkin shiny porosus crocodile handbag in Jade Green achieved $105,000 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

The top 10 list of most expensive handbags offered at auction is perennially dominated by the Birkin bag. Introduced in 1984 by the famed French luxury goods company Hermes and since produced in an endless array of colors and patterns, the Birkin is an unparalleled status symbol. Collected by celebrities, political leaders, internet influencers and corporate executives as well as those who cherish craftsmanship, rare Birkin bags routinely sell for six figures on the secondary market. Yet its creation came about by chance, arising from an encounter on an airplane.

According to Jane Birkin, the acclaimed British-French actor and award-winning recording artist for whom the bag is named, she had attempted to load a large straw tote bag into the overhead compartment before a flight from Paris to London in 1984, only to watch its contents spill onto the deck of the aircraft. She complained to her seatmate that she couldn’t find a leather tote bag that worked well. Birkin picked the right person to hear her grievance – he happened to be Jean-Louis Dumas, then-CEO of Hermes. Embracing the challenge, Dumas created a supple black leather bag based on an earlier company design. Christened the “Birkin” in honor of its inspiration, it became a runaway hit. In 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Hermes Birkin and the Hermes Kelly handbags together accounted for between 25% and 30% of the company’s sales.

This Himalayan Niloticus crocodile leather Hermes Birkin earned $130,000 plus the buyer’s premium in March 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

What makes a Birkin bag exclusive is the quality of its manufacture. Each bag is made by hand, requiring between 18 to 40 hours of labor by artisans who apprentice for a minimum of five years. They work with the finest cowhides as well as exotic leathers such as ostrich, crocodile and alligator, and accent them with hardware fashioned from silver, gold, platinum or palladium. Before Hermes reportedly abolished the waiting list around 2010, would-be buyers sometimes had to wait patiently for up to six years before taking possession of a Birkin.

A Blaze Red Hermes Birkin in shiny polosus crocodile leather and with diamond-festooned hardware sold for $160,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2022. Image courtesy of Bidhaus and LiveAuctioneers

Unfortunately, the Birkin bag’s cachet and exclusivity makes it an easy target for counterfeiters. Indeed, the market for knockoffs is shockingly robust. In 2012 Patrick Thomas, who was Hermes’ CEO at the time, estimated that 80 percent of all products sold on the Internet bearing the French firm’s name were counterfeit, and called the state of affairs “an absolute disgrace.” Few doubt that percentage has changed much since.

So, you want to acquire a new Birkin bag? Well, you can go to the Hermes website or visit a brick-and-mortar Hermes boutique. Unlike in the past, an already-estblished relationship is no longer needed to secure a Birkin and, as noted above, the waiting list is long gone. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you will find the precise Birkin you want,

A limited-edition Hermes Birkin Faubourg Sellier bag realized HK$1,350,000 (about $172,000) plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Poly Auction Hong Kong and LiveAuctioneers

To ensure you get the bag of your dreams in the color, leather and hardware you want, it might be advisable to turn to the secondary market. Dedicated Hermes resellers will affirm the authenticity of their goods with a written guarantee, something Hermes does not provide with its brand-new ones. Be aware that resellers who don’t guarantee their Birkins may not be stocking original product. Just be prepared to pay a premium above the point-of-sale retail value, even if the bag is in well-circulated condition, as most Birkins increase in value.

Let’s say you’ve found a lovely Hermes Birkin that isn’t new or advertised at a legitimate reseller. How do you know if it’s authentic? According to experts, genuine Birkins share at least seven distinct features that have never been compromised by Hermes during its corporate lifetime.

An Hermes Birkin shiny porosus crocodile leather handbag in a Rose Mexico hue attained $75,000 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2022. Image courtesy of Mynt Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

First, understand that each new Birkin has a distinctive smell. A freshly unboxed example has what can be described as a “new bag smell” emanating from its smooth and supple leather. Bogus renditions have a mass-produced, chemical, “plasticky” odor.

Next, measure it. Each Hermes leather item is advertised by its length in centimeters, from 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) for a small leather change purse to the 55-centimeter (21.6 inches) large travel bag, and those measurements are exact. If the numbers you record are anything less than precise, the bag might be fake.

A shiny-finish Electric Blue Hermes Birkin in porosus crocodile leather, sporting 18K white gold hardware decorated with white diamonds, achieved $150,000 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2018. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Look closely at the stitching. If the stitches appear straight and evenly separated from each other, that signals the use of a sewing machine, and suggests the bag might be a counterfeit. Every Birkin, regardless of size, is hand-stitched using two needles. Each stitch is finished at an angle and, while perfectly symmetrical, any given stitch might show some minor imperfections. It’s supposed to be that way, and it’s part of what makes each Birkin one of a kind. There should be no frayed edges, and no glue is used to secure any leather piece.

Now examine the heat-stamped words “Hermes, Paris, Made in Paris,” located above the locking mechanism. The legend should be rendered in sans-serif block lettering and should be perfectly centered and crisp and clean, with no flaking. In addition, those words should be stamped in the same color as the bag’s hardware, which is usually gold or silver. A symbol next to the lettering represents a code indicating which type of leather was used and if it was custom made.

Another mark of an authentic Birkin bag is its internal zipper. When not in use, the leather pull strap should remain horizontal, as seen on this custom-made Hermes Birkin gray Togo leather handbag that realized $40,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2019. Image courtesy of Diamond N Jewelry Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Check inside the bag and try the zipper. It should glide, without any stops or stutters. A metal “H” should appear at the end of the zipper signifying it is an official Hermes product (although beware; fraudsters have reproduced this detail). The zipper should be free of tarnish, with the company name stamped on the zipper handle. Also, the handle should have a one-piece attached leather strap that lies completely flat horizontally when not in use. If it rests vertically, it could be a counterfeit.

One way to identify a genuine Birkin is through its clochette, a single sewn leather piece that holds the keys to the bag’s lock, pictured here on a Hermes Birkin Rose Pourpre handbag that sold for $18,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2020. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

All Birkins are fitted with a lock that is specially constructed to be heavier; counterfeit locks usually lack heft and come with standard commercial keys. Authentic locks sport either one or two numbers under the stamped Hermes company name, depending on when it was made. Turning the key in the lock should feel smooth, not difficult to open or close. In addition, a true Birkin key is secured with leather straps and is not on a ring. When the bag’s keys are enclosed within its one-piece, sewn leather clochette, they lie evenly flat. If the clochette is sewn from two pieces of leather, that’s a sign your bag is fake.

Also, know that Hermes Birkins come with their own dust bags. Initially orange, the dust bag was changed to a beige herringbone-patterned heavy cotton material sometime in 2007. Vintage dust bags feature an image of a well-defined 19th-century Le Duc carriage and horse enclosed in a circle, plus an “H’ for Hermes. If the dust bag is newer, there should be two circles surrounding the logo and two lines under the carriage, and it should be crisp and unbroken, never blurred. Also, Birkin dust bags are woven from a heavier cloth; counterfeits have bags composed of less-substantial material. Another telling detail is the stitching for the drawstring sleeve, which should be folded over by exactly two centimeters, or about three-quarters of an inch. If you spot any deviation, your Birkin may be bogus.

Still another characteristic of a true Birkin handbag is its blind embossed date code, which appeared on the reverse of the front locking strap until 2015, when it was moved inside. This orange Veau Grain Lisse Birkin, which earned $26,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2019, shows an ‘X’ at the beginning of its date code, identifying it as having been made in 2016. Image courtesy of Diamond N Jewelry Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

Using these seven key identifiers can help you identify a legitimate Hermes Birkin, but it is always advisable to have an expert verify it, just to be sure. Those schooled in the ways of Hermes can tell you when a Birkin was made, and by whom, from the die-stamped number emblazoned either on the reverse of the closing strap or, for those bags made in 2016 and later, on the right side of the interior – but keep in mind that skilled counterfeiters are aware of this fact. Consulting a reference guide to all Hermes symbols and stamps – there are many such resources online – can aid in attempts to assess and authenticate your Birkin.

Owning a genuine Birkin bag is more than just owning a functional status symbol; many have come to view it as an investment. According to a 2021 Art Market Research study, the value of a Hermes Birkin increased 42% at auction during the previous year within the luxury goods market. That represents a much better return than even stock market gains for the same period. To reap the full value of a Birkin, though, be sure to keep everything that was issued with the bag when it was new. That includes the orange store shopping bag, dust bags, the wrappings, its box, the care instructions and any stuffing that might have been tucked inside. The more complete it is, the higher its price will be when offered on the secondary market at auction.

This Potiron orange-colored Hermes Birkin in shiny niloticus crocodile leather with palladium hardware sold for $57,000 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021. Image courtesy of GWS Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Although it is fundamentally an item of fashion, the Hermes Birkin has survived nearly 40 years of fads, a truly staggering onslaught of counterfeiting, and Jane Birkin’s own mixed signals about her namesake.

After relying on Hermes Birkins for years, Birkin told the BBC in 2017, “Now I fill my pockets like a man, because then you don’t actually have to carry anything.” Two years earlier, she had asked Hermes to remove her name from Birkins made from crocodile leather until the harvesting process could be made more humane. The brand subsequently investigated the matter and addressed her concerns. But Birkin bags endure because Hermes backs, and places its full faith in, its artisans. Birkins are heirloom-quality and regarded far and wide as being of investment quality. There can be no greater status symbol than that.

Stephanie Seymour-worn Versace gown headlines Jasper52 Oct. 19 sale

On Wednesday, October 19, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will hold an Exclusive Versace Collection sale featuring 700 lots of clothing and accessories from the Italian design house founded by the late Gianni Versace. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

If you want to fill your closet with garments that will do their jobs with modesty and restraint and help you blend in to the crowd, this auction is not for you. Versace, then and now, designs bold, daring clothes for bold, daring people who love being the center of attention.

Versace embraces this philosophy from the ground up, literally, as evidenced by its shoe selections, which include a pair of 2019 black satin over-knee boots decorated with crystals and colored pearls; men’s orange perforated leather high-top sneakers showcasing the brand’s Medusa-head logo on the tongues; black leather thigh-high stiletto-heel boots embroidered with red flowers; plexiglass platform sandals festooned with pink crystals and sporting five-inch heels; and knee-high black suede gladiator sandal boots with four-inch stiletto heels.

1990s Gianni Versace-designed black evening dress worn by Stephanie Seymour, estimated at $126,000-$151,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Hats off to Stetson, an American classic

A Stetson hat that John Wayne gave to Joe Franklin before appearing on the latter’s namesake television show in 1963 earned $9,800 in April 2016. Image courtesy of Saco River Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

A comfortable hat provides more than just warmth and protection, it can make a statement, too. No one knows that better than the legendary American hat company Stetson.

The iconic headgear evolved directly from the Gold Rush of 1848. Young men seeking to strike it rich endured frigid temperatures, snow, rain and constant flooding while trying to find a chunk of the shiny yellow metal that would make all the discomfort worth it. 

A 1942 Edward McKnight Kauffer poster shows the pop-culture ubiquity of the Stetson brand. The phrase ‘Keep it under your Stetson’ was as popular during World War II as the phrase ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ This example of the poster achieved $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2021. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

Like his fellow miner Levi Strauss, John Batterson Stetson (American, 1830-1906) made his fortune by inventing a product that made miners’ lives easier. He created a water-resistant long-brimmed felt hat that provided some protection from the elements and shade from the sun. Beaver pelts yielded a strong felt that Stetson pressed with other animal felts to form into a hat with a tall crown. He introduced it in 1865 as the “Boss of the Plains.” A story associated with the hatmaker claims a miner on horseback paid $5 – about $90 in modern dollars – for the hat perched on Stetson’s own head. Having passed this unorthodox test of market appeal, Stetson founded the John B. Stetson Hat Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Within a decade the name John B Stetson became synonymous with the word ‘hat’ in every corner and culture west of the Mississippi River,” said Texas Bix Bender, author of Hats & the Cowboys Who Wear Them. 

A lot consisting of various LBJ material, led by a Stetson with a sweatband marked ‘Made by Stetson Especially For Lyndon Baines Johnson’ earned $12,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2022. Image courtesy of A&S Antique Auction Co. and LiveAuctioneers

Making a felt hat is a challenging process, that hasn’t changed much since the time of John Stetson, who learned the trade from his father. Finding the right animal fur or combination of animal furs for the felt is still labor intensive and costly. The Stetson company website states its felt hats contain beaver, mink, chinchilla and other animal furs. Stetson describes the amount of beaver fur used for each felt hat as the X quality: “The higher the X’s, the higher percentage of beaver fur is mixed in the hat … the exact percentages are a manufacturing secret formula that we choose not to share.”

Stetson made more than cowboy hats. A beaver top hat with its original hat box, bearing inside its brim a stamp saying it was made ‘especially for Ulysses S. Grant,’ sold for $600 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2020. Image courtesy of Rentzel’s Auction Service Inc and LiveAuctioneers

Converting fur to felt involves hot water, steam and lots of pressing into shape – a Stetson hat typically requires two days to go from raw materials to finished product. The wearer determines its final shape. For example, a center crease for the crown, a pinch on either side and a rolled brim forms the cowboy-hat style called the Carlsbad (so named because its unique creases were first created in Carlsbad, New Mexico). Once the desired shape is chosen, the Stetson is heavily steamed and “blocked,” or formed against a hat-shape wooden block, to fix and confirm it. Individual styling details may include feathers, leather straps and even precious metals or jewelry. Once purely utilitarian, the cowboy hat has transformed into an independent fashion statement.

An early Montana Peak Stetson with a marked satin liner and a wide ribbon hatband sold for $600 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2022. Image courtesy of New Frontier Western Show & Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Stetson’s genius extended beyond millinery to marketing. After he formalized the production process to make hats in quantity, he launched the brand by giving the product away to small retailers and general stores in mining communities. As the new hat proved itself worthy among miners, as Stetson knew it would, demand soared.

An undated Stetson Hat Co/ window card featuring art by Edward Borein achieved $7,250 against an estimate of $250-$300 in September 2017. Image courtesy of Showtime Auction Services and LiveAuctioneers

It should be mentioned that Stetson lived in a world where everyone wore hats, all day, every day. Hats were, of course, useful. They kept the sun out of the wearer’s eyes before the invention of sunglasses. They served as briefcases for those who liked to tuck important documents inside them. And, of course, they warmed and protected the head. But they also signaled the wearer’s profession, and, by extension, their rank and status.

Tom Mix, the first star of silent film Westerns, wore an authentic Stetson Boss of the Plains 10-gallon cowboy hat specifically because the high crown and single crease looked great on camera.
His Stetson and his Colt SAA together realized $32,000 plus buyer’s premium in August 2022. Image courtesy of Burley Auction Group and LiveAuctioneers

Universal hat-wearing began a slow decline in the early 20th century, coincidentally at the same time when silent films were on the rise. By the mid-1920s, 50 million people – roughly half the country’s population – went to the movies every week. Tom Mix, the first famous cinematic cowboy, appeared on screen in a 10-gallon hat (which really only held three-quarters of a gallon). Gene Autry and Will Rogers sported cowboy hats early in the era of the talkies, aka movies with sound. John Wayne owned the role of the silver screen cowboy like no one before or since, and he virtually never stepped before the camera without the requisite headgear. The Stetson he wore in the 1948 classic Red River is almost as iconic as the film itself.

Another John Wayne-owned Stetson has a great story behind it – the lot notes that Wayne used it to pay an overdue dinner check, yelling, “Take my xxx-damned hat, it ought to be worth at least that much!” Stetson graded it XXXXX, meaning that it was one of the highest-quality felt hats the company produced. It achieved $6,000 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Ever adept in the realm of marketing, Stetson supplied cowboy hats to movie stars, and in turn, featured the hat-wearing actors in its advertisements. The company understood that if you liked the actor, you’d buy the hat. 

A Stetson hat owned by President Harry S Truman, which survived with its original Stetson case bearing an H.S.T monogram, sold for $1,400 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2019. Image courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

President John F. Kennedy is broadly (and incorrectly) blamed for the demise of hat-wearing, a societal shift that actually began decades earlier. Over time, Stetson, like all other hat makers, was affected by changing tastes. By 1968, the company no longer made its own hats. Instead, it became a licensor, granting other companies the right to manufacture all Stetson hats under strict standards of quality. Hatco of Garland, Texas, is the current licensee for the entire Stetson catalog and employs about 200 people.

A circa-1920s Art Deco neon sign touting Stetson hats realized $3,400 against an estimate of $550-$600 in June 2016. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

It’s not easy to determine when a Stetson hat was made simply by looking at it, although most bear some clues that help to narrow down their vintage.

  • Hats from the 1920s to the late 1930s had a round gold sticker attached to the inside sweatband with the size of the hat printed on it. A ¾-inch round black size tag made of paper, with a gold outline and a number, was in use from the 1940s through the 1960s, while a square black tag with the size listed in gold was employed from the 1970s to the present day.
  • You can check for a union label, which is located in the hat band. The United Hatters Cap and Millinery Workers label was used from 1934 until 1983 when a merger changed the union label to Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. No union labels appeared on Stetsons prior to 1934.
  • Under the hat’s crown inside, you may see a colored printed liner of a cowboy giving his horse water from his cowboy hat. It’s an image known as “The Last Drop” which has been used from the 1970s to the present day. Prior to the advent of this liner, variations of a coat-of-arms design were in use as far back as the 1920s.

To better identify Stetson hats by design, era and type, you may wish to consult Jeffrey B. Snyder’s book Stetson Hats and the John B. Stetson Hat Company. You can also seek assistance from online groups dedicated to the history and legacy of the Stetson hat.

A Stetson hat, whether vintage or contemporary, is wearable history. Those who donned Stetsons made under the founder’s watch wore them because they needed to, but in the 21st century, you don a Stetson because you want to, and that makes all the difference. 

Jasper52 presents stylish all-Hermes auction, July 31

On Sunday, July 31, starting at 8 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will hold a sale dubbed Rare and Coveted Hermes Collections – 294 lots, all featuring treasures from the venerated French firm. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Of course, the lineup contains a generous selection of handbags. These range from a Birkin 35 Porosus crocodile bag in a Bordeaux hue with 18K white gold hardware set with more than 10 carats of diamonds; a Birkin 25 matte vivid blue Zellige alligator bag with gold hardware; a Birkin 35 Porosus crocodile bag in a striking color called Rose Scheherazade, fitted with gold hardware; a Birkin 30 Porosus crocodile bag in jade green, with palladium hardware; and a Birkin 25 lizard bag in black, described as very rare and sporting gold hardware.

Hermes Birkin 30 Porosus crocodile bag in jade green with palladium hardware, est. $150,000-$180,000

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Jasper52 lays out luxe array of designer accessories, June 15

Jasper52‘s Rare and Coveted Designer Accessories sale delivers on its promise. Scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, starting at 7 pm Eastern time and boasting more than 550 lots, it’s quicker and easier to list the brand names that don’t appear in the auction instead of those that do. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Four iterations on Van Cleef & Arpels’ popular Alhambra line of jewelry are on offer, led by a 20-motif necklace in diamond and turquoise. Other notable pieces of jewelry in the June 15 sale include works by Barry Kieselstein-Cord, among them a solid 18K gold bracelet with a Women of the World theme, and a pair of 18K green gold earrings in the form of hearts topped with crowns. Equally worthy of mention is a vintage Dolce & Gabbana belt festooned with emerald-cut ruby-like stones and Swarovski crystals.

Fendi 3Jours medium crocodile tote in electric blue, est. $38,000-$46,000

View the auction here.

Louboutin purple pumps step up in May 31 Luxury Fashion sale

A Chanel quilted glazed leather Large Boy handbag in dark green ombre, a Hermes Garden Party handbag in etoupe-colored leather, and a pair of Christian Louboutin suede purple pumps with five-inch heels will compete for top lot status at Jasper52‘s Luxury Fashion Louis Vuitton, Chanel auction. It will be conducted on Tuesday, May 31, starting at 5 pm Eastern time.

Christian Louboutin purple suede pumps, est. $500-$600

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

It’s hip to be square: all-Hermes scarf sale, May 17

Leave it to Hermes to make something perfectly square perfectly chic. On Tuesday, May 17, starting at 1 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will present a sale titled Exclusive Hermes Scarf Collection, devoted to the fashion must-have that the French firm debuted in 1937.

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Louboutin pumps add glamour to Jasper52’s April 21 Luxury Fashion sale

A pair of beige Christian Louboutin Bianca pumps, a ladies’ Gucci G Bandeau fabric strap watch, and a patent leather Louis Vuitton Monogram vernis brea handbag will compete for top lot status at Jasper52’s Luxury Fashion auction, which will take place on Thursday, April 21 at 6 pm Eastern time.

Christian Louboutin beige Bianca pumps, est. $700-$800

View the auction here.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.