Very expensive designer bags are often called "investment pieces" because you're investing a lot of money in an item that's going to last a long time. But, for some people, these investment pieces are literal investments — as in a commodity to be bought and then sold later at a profit.
Many argue that bags by designers like Chanel and Hermès are actually sound financial investments because they continuously and reliably appreciate in value. The phenomenon is so great, in fact, that Bag Hunter did a deep dive into researching the value of Chanel bags over time to determine if they were actually a good investment.
The study focused on Chanel's Medium Classic Flap Bag, which has been in production since way, way back in 1955. When it was released in the '50s, it carried a price tag of $220, which comes out to $1,981.87 in 2016 dollars, when you adjust for inflation. But, if you think the Chanel Medium Classic Flap Bag retails for $1,981 today, you're sorely mistaken. The bag actually runs customers a whopping $4,900 today.
Chanel's increasing prices haven't always outpaced inflation like they do today. Between 1955 and 1990, the bag's price increased just slightly faster than inflation. Adjusted for inflation, the bag's 1955 price tag would be the equivalent of about $1,073. It's actual cost in 1990 was just slightly higher, at $1,150.
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And since 1990? Well, since 1990, the price of the Medium Classic Flap Bag has skyrocketed. Why? Mostly because Chanel wants it to and people keep paying. The increased price of the bag can't be explained by simple market factors like inflation, material costs, and labor costs. What's more, even in the face of economic downturns and crises, like the Energy Crises in the 1970s, the Dotcom Bubble in 2000, and Subprime Mortgage Crises that hit from 2007-2009, haven't impacted the bags' value or sales.
In other words: The Chanel Medium Classic Flap Bag might actually be a recession-proof investment, if you want to keep your retirement nest egg in your closet instead of a bank account or 401k.
"I do believe that Chanel is a great investment," Samoylov told Refinery. "Whether you're purchasing pre-owned or new, if you're investing in a traditional classic such as the Chanel Jumbo Flap bag you really cannot go wrong."
Furthermore, she has actual clients who use Chanel bags as a serious investment strategy.
"I also have a client who purchased her Chanel medium flap in 1990 for $1,150 and now has an approximate resale value of $4,000 to $4,400, which is three times her original investment," she explained. "Our office jokes that investing in Chanel is like playing the safest stock that the IRS doesn't track!"
So the takeaway: In some cases at least, an investment piece might be a true — and actually smart — investment. If the flagship bags from Chanel and Hermès continue to increase in value at their current rates, they might be a steadier investment than some (okay most) stocks. But, remember that it's always important to diversify your investments. A mutual fund might be a lot less sexy, but you also can't forget it at a restaurant during a night out or accidentally scuff it up and hurt its resale value. So, if you plan to invest in investment pieces, just make sure they're not your entire retirement plan.