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Hermes Birkin: A Good Bag but Even Better Investment

Stocks in this article: RL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been more than a decade since Sex in the City's Samantha introduced the world to the allure of a Hermes Birkin bag. You may recall, Samantha simply had to own one, even if it meant lying her way to the top of Hermes' wait list.

Amazingly, in 2001 when that episode aired, a basic Birkin cost $4,000. Today, the same bag, if you can get your hands on one, retails for $10,000. Exotic skin versions can reach into six figures. The French luxury retailer says price increases reflect the rising costs of leather and silk, not to mention the bag's unique, handmade craftsmanship. TheStreet's Suzanne Pratt visits The Perfect Purse in Southampton in the video below.

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Inspired in the 1980s by British actress Jane Birkin, the Birkin bag has become the ultimate status symbol, transcending the fashion world's annual "must-have" purse. The Birkin can be seen on the wrists of celebrities, society dames and fashionistas. Few accessories have appreciated as much as the Birkin, raising the question whether luxury handbags should be considered an "asset class," just like stocks, bonds and even artwork?

Christie's International certainly thinks so. In early June, the auction house hired Hermes expert Matthew Rubinger away from Heritage Auctions. Heritage had invested significant time and money into training the 26-year old to suss out the rarest and priciest of handbags. The move ignited a breach of contract lawsuit, since dubbed the battle of the Birkins. Christie's, which has been more interested in paintings than pocketbooks, is clearly trying to elbow into high-end accessories.

"More than any other designer, Hermes is on the top of holding their value, the Birkins, the Kelly's," said Marc DeLeon, co-owner of The Perfect Purse, a second-hand luxury handbag shop in Southampton, N.Y. Chanel's signature 2.55 quilted purse is not far behind in collectibility. It has skyrocketed from $2,900 in 2008 to $4,900 today.

The stunning price tags of certain luxury bags has spawned a new market for used purses, although "vintage" is definitely the more preferred term. The Perfect Purse has an impressive selection of Hermes and Chanel bags, some at 50% to 60%  of current retail prices. "I think pre-owned bags now don't have the stigma they used to have," says Alan Stolz, co-owner of the Perfect Purse.

The most expensive bag in the shop is a 1993 Hermes Kelly bag, selling for nearly $24,000. "It's kind of like buying a good stock. If you buy the right stock it keeps going up and up and up," Stolz said.

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