Women have enjoyed purses for centuries. You can notice these handy accessories in various types, colors, and models, but their purpose has stayed the same. Nowadays, old purses are highly collectible, and collectors buy these pieces to wear them on special occasions or keep them on display.
However, you can treat these lovely models as an investment since vintage purses worth money will always stay desirable. Be aware that famous designer bags’ resale value increases more than houses and vehicles. Most experts agree that some purchases’ prices will only increase further, so you should take a chance and invest your money in something worth it.
Vintage Purses Value
Identifying vintage purses correctly and determining their price is often challenging unless they are well-known brand models. Be careful when purchasing a vintage bag and determine its authenticity by checking a few crucial details.
Always check whether the purse’s logo and stamp match the particular brand standard. Pay particular attention to holograms and unique fonts since they always confirm authenticity.
Most collectors look for vintage purses in excellent condition, but some will also pay for pieces in less than perfect shape. However, it should be in as good as possible condition for their ages.
Unfortunately, signs of wear will lower the bag’s value, particularly stains, scuffs, tears, bad smell, ink marks, or worn hardware. On the other hand, a patina will add to a purse charm and increase its price.
The quickest way to distinguish a counterfeit purse from the real thing is to get proof of origin, including:
- Original box
- Serial number
- Certificate of authenticity
- Purchase receipt
Be particularly careful when buying a pricey vintage bag online. Always check the seller and their reputation and ask for additional paperwork to make sure it is not a scam.
Distinctive and unique purse designs are highly collectible, particularly when you want to buy a designer model. Be careful with one-of-a-kind pieces since there is a good chance you will run into a copy. It is especially suspicious if you find such a purse at an atypically low price.
Construction and finish
You can recognize a unique construction and finish in many designers’ handbags, and they are often a signature element unique for each manufacturer. Designers can insist on buttery-soft leather, unique handles, recognizable hardware, or quality details, depending on their creativity.
Be convinced that a vintage purse’s price is directly connected to its hardware. Only pieces with a well-preserved quality structure are valuable for collectors. Therefore, you should check a desired model’s sturdy metal frame and clasps, magnets, zippers, and finials.
It is crucial to check metal zippers on purses from the 20th century and check whether there is visible rust or missing teeth. Interestingly, Hermes and Chanel’s metal frames are often sold on the vintage market for parts. Plus, you can find collectors who look only for decorative metal purses’ details.
Always check the lining quality, attached mirrors, and interior pockets before purchasing a vintage purse. While brands pay attention to every detail, copies will be poorly done and even ripped.
Vintage purses are typically made of superior materials, such as:
- Snake or alligator skin
- Leopard or ostrich skin
- Vinyl, lucite, or plastic
- Metal mesh
- Straw or fabric
You should look for:
- Nantucket baskets with ivory or baleen details
- Tightly woven straw bags without missing or broken parts
- Sturdy weave basket purse type
- Leather bags without damage, scratches, and visible signs of wear
- Undeformed and undistorted metal mesh bags
- Beaded, textile, and embroidered handbags with all threads and beads
- Lucite bags without cracks
Emblematic of the era
A vintage purse’s value will significantly vary based on the elements that connect it to a specific era. For instance, a purse produced at the end of the 19th century will be more pricey if you can recognize Art Nouveau-style elements. On the other hand, bags from the 1960s needs to be in the hippie style typical of that period.
The Most Collectible Vintage Purse Styles
Vintage fashion is more present and collectible today than ever. Unfortunately, there are not enough vintage purses and bags for everyone who wants to enjoy such beautiful pieces.
Luckily, quality bags are durable, and most owners take good care of them, making them well-preserved. The list of the most collectible vintage purse styles on the current market includes:
1. Telephone purse
Since leather was rare and precious during WWII, designers turned to other available materials. These unusual colorful telephone cord purses were designed as an alternative to leather handbags.
Unfortunately, these purses are rare today because of a short production period. Their price on the current market is approximately $50 to $200, depending on their condition and used colors.
2. Cordé bag
This durable, machine-embroidered purse type was produced during the Great Depression and WWII. They featured flat patterns adhered to the base fabric. Most survived models created from the 1920s to the 1940s typically cost $15 to $60 nowadays.
3. Acrylic purse
This transparent bag used for a night out is among the most desirable pieces collectors look for. You can find four primary options, including:
- Clear acrylic purses
- Marbled acrylic purses
- Purses with glitter in the acrylic
- Acrylic purses with intaglio flower design
These purses are rare nowadays since this material quickly cracks, clouds, yellows, and becomes scratched. Finding a piece with well-preserved handles is incredibly hard since they break first.
Pieces in excellent condition are typically worth about $100 to $300. However, some collectors will pay $30 to $40 for purses with wear or broken parts.
4. Bakelite handle bag
Collectors look for bags with Bakelite handles nowadays since they are trendy again. Always test a piece you want to buy to find signs that handles are made of true Bakelite. Purses in excellent condition are worth approximately $30 to $300 on the current market.
5. Enid Collins purse
Purses created by this original handbag designer in the early 20th century are pricey on today’s market. You can find numerous copies made during the 1960s and 1970s, but no one could reach the beauty of her hand-painted cigar box purses.
Enid Collins created quality and durable pieces preserved until today, and you can buy her purses for $50 to $150.
6. Hand-tooled leather bag
These bags created from the 1940s to the 1970s were sturdy and with a fascinating natural look. Most were hand-tooled, rustic, and came in earth tones. You need to set aside about $30 to $350 to get one.
7. Antique reticule
These small reticule bags appeared in the 1910s as a tie-on pocket substitute. Designers created them from velvet, silk moiré, or embroidered fabrics, but some were beaded or decorated with chainmail. Since their design significantly varies, you can find pieces in a price range of $20 to $350.
Vintage Purses with Excellent Market Value
Some vintage purses have retained their market value for decades. Therefore, you should be careful when estimating your old bag. If you are unsure about its actual value, the best option is to ask a professional. A list of models that come with excellent prices includes:
1. Gold mesh purses
Metal mesh purses appeared at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were typically created from brass, but rare models made of gold mesh are highly collectible and expensive nowadays.
You can find branded pieces in various styles, sizes, and shapes. One collector paid $10,000 for an antique gold mash purse designed in 1900. These manufactured later are more affordable but still pricey.
2. Jeweled-frame purses
This purse type came with a sturdy metal frame. Interestingly, the frame material will significantly affect each piece’s price, and the most costly are models framed with sterling silver, gold, or precious gemstones. One jeweled-frame purse was sold for over $11,000 at auction in 2003.
3. Micro-beaded purses
Such a purse features numerous uniquely arranged tiny colorful beads. Their value depends on the artistry quality, and models with impeccable looks are pricey on the current market.
They are typically rare and highly collectible. One of these purses with beautiful beads framed in sterling silver was sold for $2,500.
4. Nantucket lightship basket purses
These delightful woven basket-looked purses popular in the 1950s and 1960s featured lids with sea creatures’ carved bones. Most are worth several hundred dollars, but a Reyes model with details made of carved whale bones was paid $2,575 in 2020.
5. Lucite handbags
These clear plastic bags were trendy during the 1950s and 1960s, and well-preserved pieces are collectible nowadays. You can expect to find these unconventional models for approximately $900.
The Most Expensive Vintage Purses
The most expensive vintage purses you can find nowadays are designer pieces, including:
1. Fendi Tote purse
This company has been a standard for beautifully crafted purses for decades. Most vintage models they created are precious nowadays, and you need to set aside at least $500 for the less expensive model.
2. Chanel Black Tote flap bag
This classic and highly elegant flap black bag goes with everything, making it timeless and valuable regardless of the production year.
Most Chanel medium caviar-leather flaps are worth about $1,600 to $5,000, and they will retain or increase in value over the years, making them an excellent investment.
Even though it is not a real vintage piece, the Chanel Tote Boy Bag handbag introduced in 2011 has quickly become classic. The less expensive model will cost you at least $1,500, but you can count on 90% of its resale value retaining.
However, this price will rise over time, for sure. For instance, a model retailing for $2,500 in 2014 is worth over $5,000 on the current market.
3. Chanel Crossbody bag
This powerful model with recognizable leather and metal straps came with a price of $2,000, but it is worth more nowadays.
4. Hermes Birkin purse
Simply said, vintage Hermes Birkin purses and bags are insanely expensive because of their high quality, exclusivity, and limited quantities.
You can find pieces worth $9,000 to $150,000, but don’t be surprised when finding one for an astonishing $223,000. Be aware that the resale value depends on purse style, leather type, and hardware quality.
5. Gucci Saddlebag
It is definitely an iconic purse, whether you have a monogram saddle bag or a leather 17 inches (43 cm) saddle equestrian model.
You can be sure their purses will remain hot for decades with constantly increasing value.
Popular Vintage Designer Handbags
Nowadays, collectors look for the most prestigious purse brands. They are typically pricey, particularly in perfect condition. The most appreciated designers offer numerous purses, but some are iconic and highly collectible, including:
- 55 bag
- Gabrielle purse
- Flap purse
- Messenger purse
- Crossbody bag (mini)
- Nylon bag
- Everyday bag
- Fashion-forward piece with a gold chain
- Statement maker
- Crossbody bag made of cloth
- Lady Dior purse
- Collaboration collection
- Bucket bag with drawstring
- Shoulder bag
- Clutch bag
- Satchel purse
- Shoulder purse
- Birkin bag
- Shoulder bag
- Kelly status purse
- Crossbody bag
- Baguette purse
- Cloth tote purse
Whiting & Davis
- Shoulder bag
- Evening bag with metal mesh
- Small mesh purse
- Celine black-clutch purse
- Macadam handbag with double flap
- Canvas crossbody bag with a monogram
- Camera bag
- Acrylic bag
- Tote bag
Places to Find Vintage Purses
You can find an authentic vintage purse or handbag in numerous places. Always check whether they are stylish, well made, and with a design reflecting the production era. The best option is to look for a desirable piece in:
- Stores like Jim Smiley, Cherry, and Legacy
- Online vintage marketplaces, including Ruby Lane, Etsy, and Poshmark
- Web sites, like The bag Lady emporium, Enokiworld, and Vintage textile
- Estate sales
- Specialty retailers
- Specialty vintage clothing retailers, like Macy’s and Nordstrom second-hand
- Flea markets
Believe it or not, vintage purses are an excellent investment, besides being beautiful and collectible. Most designer models’ value increased about 100% in the last decade, so it is profitable to buy one.
Plus, vintage designer bags represent an ethical investment and lovely detail with your elegant dress when attending special events.