Balenciaga    Real Talk

Timeless Classic or Nostalgic Throwback: Is The City Bag a Good Investment?

One of the few things that 2001 Paris Hilton and 2018 Mary Kate Olsen agree on

My first Balenciaga City bag meant the world to me. I bought it used in late 2016 at a difficult moment in my life, and it was my first foray into the high end luxury bag market after getting my feet wet with bags by Coach, Michael Kors, and Furla. Carrying the slouchy, cardinal red bag with giant studs lent all of my outfits an aura of effortless cool. My City Bag was truly the bag that kickstarted my handbag obsession.

However, a year and a half later, a new City Bag caught my eye. At $900 (compared to $1,500 for my red City), the new object of my obsession was bubblegum pink, more structured, and a lot smaller. Since I’m not exactly rich, I thought, no big deal—I’ll just sell my red City and get this one. Certainly that would more than cover the cost, and I might end up turning a profit at that.

I’m sure you can see where this is going, Dear Reader, but in case you can’t: I was very wrong. I put my red City up for consignment on the same website I had purchased it from, at a little over 2/3 of the price I had paid for it. After it sat there for a good six months, the consignment site gave me a choice: reduce the price, or take the bag back. I took the bag back, and I now regret ever putting it up for sale, as it was my first major luxury purchase, so rest assured that this is not a tragic story—though my bank account may disagree.

But, it made me wonder how on earth the value of a City Bag had fallen by so much in the span of a little over a year. City Bags are now going for as little as $500 on the resale market, where City bag lovers can find pretty much any color, size, or special edition print their hearts desire. Yet new City Bags are still retailing for around $2,000-$3,000. What is happening?

Balenciaga’s Motorcycle bags had their heyday back in the early 2000’s, when famous devotees like Kate Moss and the Olsen twins carried the It Bag on their Frapuccino runs. (Side note: does anyone else remember reading In Touch Magazine and seeing nothing but the Olsen twins holding Frappuccinos? Did they have an endorsement deal with Starbucks or something? Wild.) Since then, Balenciaga has churned these babies out season after season, because why mess with something that works?

Circa 2016, the City Bag had a bit of a comeback and was embraced by the next generation of bag fans. The Jenner sisters led the way, which is no accident considering their older sisters were carrying Motorcycle bags back in the early 2000s during their original run as an It Bag. From 2016 on, there’s been a steady stream of articles making the case that the City bag is back. So why doesn’t the resale market reflect the bag’s resurgence? Well for one thing, Balenciaga has been making the Motorcycle bag for nearly twenty years, so any claim to scarcity or exclusivity that the It Bags of yore had is pretty much irrelevant now. It’s not hard to get your hands on a new or used City bag, and— if we’re being honest—a big part of handbag culture is the thrill of the pursuit. So, there’s none of the breathless anticipation that brands like Hermès and Chanel cultivate with an (increasingly punitive) enforced lack of availability.

I respect Balenciaga for not messing with a good thing, but it also reflects a larger problem for the fashion house. Since the Motorcycle bags, Balenciaga has failed to produce a bag that comes even close to matching the iconic status of the City. Under Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga is consistently a newsmaker with ironic statements like that knockoff Ikea bag and tricked-out Crocs, which to be honest I considered buying for a hot second (please don’t judge me,) but its handbag offerings from recent years are somewhat lacking. If Balenciaga stopped producing the City Bag, it’s likely that their handbag sales would take a pretty big hit.

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But beyond the bottom line, does the enduring popularity of the Motorcycle bags mean that they have attained that elusive Classic status that few handbags ever reach? It’s hard to tell at our current cultural moment, as we are in something of a post It-Bag era. Yes, there are still coveted bags like Gabriela Hearst’s Nina, but the fanfare doesn’t compare to say a Fendi Baguette circa 1998. What I love about fashion right now is that pretty much anything goes, and we are seeing designers take inspiration from many different iconic fashion moments in history.

This is all to say that the question of ‘if the City bag is a bona fide classic’ is almost besides the point. It’s a great-looking bag that has stood the test of time, and if you like it, you should wear it. Is it a great investment bag? Not at the moment, but I still wouldn’t recommend against getting one. City bags are functional, badass, and one of the few style points that 2001 Paris Hilton and 2018 Mary Kate Olsen can agree on. So go ahead and get that City!

Balenciaga Classic Mini City Graffiti Bag

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Balenciaga Classic City Bag

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Balenciaga Blackout Small City Bag

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Balenciaga Metallic Small City Bag

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Balenciaga Blackout Small City Bag

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Janet Miller
Janet Miller
5 years ago

I love the City bag. I have 2 and they are my favorite bags for travel.

Cait
Cait
5 years ago

I think for the right person it’s a cute bag and a decent investment, but the city bag just has no place in my wardrobe. For all the black top handle bags out there, I just think you can get better for the price via Louis Vuitton or Givenchy.

Passerinee
Passerinee
5 years ago

I like it in certain leathers, but not in the crinkly leathers, the blackout version or the graffiti’d leather. A few years ago they had a cute shearling version that would have been great for swanning around a ski resort.
Overall, it’s good sized, practical bag but I never bought one because the shoulder strap just doesn’t sit right on my shoulder. Too bad, because in its own way, it is (IMO) a classic bag like the Chloe Marni…casual but classic

Eve
Eve
5 years ago

$500, you say?

By the way, does anyone know reliable resale sites that ship from EU? I don’t want to pay customs buying things from the US and I don’t know what’s authentic in EU.

Darietta
Darietta
5 years ago
Reply to  Eve

Well, Vestiaire is based in France. I sell with them sometimes, pretty reliable I would say

Mizantrop
Mizantrop
5 years ago

Never understood the appeal of this bag…

?4ladyfox
?4ladyfox
5 years ago
Reply to  Mizantrop

It’s just too hippie chic, for me.

Haha
Haha
5 years ago
Reply to  ?4ladyfox

Hippie? To me it looks mora like a rocker chic type of bag! Or even punk!

pixiegirlie
pixiegirlie
5 years ago

I was really into Balenciaga and have bought a lot over the years. I don’t really like anything they’ve done in the past 5+ years and haven’t bought anything in a long time from them. I don’t think that they will return to the icon status they once were. I have a few I’d like to sell but haven’t because I know I’ll Get next to nothing for them even though they are sought out colors. I also never look at a handbag as an investment.

Elm1979
Elm1979
5 years ago

I was *this* close to buying a city bag again after having one in the early 2000’s. I loved the size and durablilty… but when I went to check them out, I was swayed by the Celine “Small” Big Bag, instead. It felt more modern and clean, but similar in size and it has a very similar strap/top handle design. Anyway, after all the changes as Celine I am so glad I bought it!

Sparky
Sparky
5 years ago

Great everyday bag. Indestructible and under the radar – if you get one without the logo on it. I have several

Antonia
Antonia
5 years ago

I noticed too that they are not selling for much but if you can find a classic one in great shape for $500 I say go for it! It’s definitely a classic. I have an 06 P/T in charcoal that has the most amazing crinkly leather and I got it from The Real Real for a very good price-so happy!

Trish
Trish
5 years ago

I hate what they have done lately. I want the bright colored ones back. Dying for a magenta. Hate the Blackout bags and the shopping bags in stripes. Please do some colors again and drop the black out.

Janet Laird
Janet Laird
5 years ago
Reply to  Trish

I agree. I don’t like the graffiti much at all.

FashionableLena
FashionableLena
5 years ago

I love my Balenciaga. I bought it secondhand and paid less than $600 for it. It needs to be re-dyed so I’m going to take it to a reputable handbag restorer in my area to see what we can come up with. It still has a lot of life, and I think that it just needs a refresh.

Personally, I think that the resale value is low because the bag is for a very specific customer. It’s an edgy, casual, effortless bag. It’s not really day-to-evening. The shape and silhouette are not classic. It’s only going to appeal to a niche group of women.

Bryan Lepe
Bryan Lepe
5 years ago

I love the blackout version but I’d need one in mini. I’m not a huge fan of the lambskin leather. I prefer the grained leather on the metallic edge. I was very close to getting one in a mini size years ago when the minis went for $1,300. After holding it up with the tongues out in front of a mirror I realized it looked like a uterus. Instantly put it down and walked away. Nevertheless I still debate on getting one every now and again but would NOT buy one retail.

Yoshi1296
Yoshi1296
5 years ago

The City bag in my opinion is an icon and probably the best bag in my collection! I always have so much fun using it!

M Green
M Green
5 years ago

It’s a solid bag. My mom carried one for years then eventually retired it. Not because the bag was out of style, simply because she was ready for something new.

Fxvanleeuwen
Fxvanleeuwen
5 years ago

i also started with a black citybag in 2005, but it was a bit to smal for me as a male, I think. So I have tried al kinds of sizes and models that Balenciaga made. Since that first bag I started collecting. Buying an reselling and I kept the best pieces. I think I have now about 25 Balancing bags in al different sizes models and neutral colors.
I was not a fan of the wang decade and when Demna took over I had to get used to the strange things he designs, but I have Bazarbag in medium and the biggest air hobo I could get.
But I am stil very fond of the older pieces that Nicolas made.
I know the value now is low but I have a weakness for the real older pieces with the yummy leather.
For me every day is Balancing bag day.
Hugs Frank

Claudia Long
Claudia Long
5 years ago
Reply to  Fxvanleeuwen

Hi Frank! Totally agree with you on the old leather .. Chevre, Caribou, Monk .. yum!!! Must say though that some of the newer Calfskin bags are also wonderful leather; the lambskin (Agneau) .. don’t like it!

Jennifer
Jennifer
5 years ago

Is it just me, or is the mirror the cheesiest thing? It looks like something you’d find in a bag at a lower price department store… it’s an automatic turnoff for me.

UmmIbrahim
UmmIbrahim
5 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

*yawn*… that’s all you make? You can work remotely in plenty of real careers and make an actual decent salary!

Cbo9710
Cbo9710
5 years ago

I’ve always loved the edginess of these bags. Have my eyes on 1 as I right this and probably will pull the trigger for Christmas; on the pre-loved market of course. Can’t go wrong!

jhoran85
jhoran85
5 years ago

Never was a fan of this bag, something screams Canal Street fake to me about it, not sure why. I actually think it’s very dated to the early 2000s, I’m surprised it still sells well.

Claudia Long
Claudia Long
5 years ago

I started with the original Le Dix in 2001 (the precursor to the First). I will admit, I am a big-time Balenciaga collector, so I have many City and other style bags. What I have always loved, is the lightweight leather and while I loved the Celine style, they were so heavy that I just could not tolerate the weight (especially after putting all my “stuff” into it). However, a little bit of history here .. in the “early days” (2001 – about 2006/7), Balenciaga did not make the number of bags that they do today .. quite honestly, oftentimes the stores would sell out and if you wanted a particular bag that was very popular, you just may have had to get it 2nd market .. and oftentimes as a HIGHER than retail cost!!! Then, Balenciaga started producing a lot more bags (probably around 2008 when they changed from Chevre to Lambskin – big mistake in my opinion). As such, and with a lot more retail stores & boutiques having the bags, it somewhat “de-valued” the prior bags. Not sure of the year – likely 2011/2012, all of a sudden you start to see a plethora of bags on eBay, consignment places, etc. – and especially if sold by Japanese resellers, wicked low prices .. and that was when the downslide began! As a US consumer, you could find bags sold by a Japanese reseller for significantly less than a US counterpart. Sometimes they were in great condition, so why would anyone want to pay more, right? I still love my Bal bags, but .. I’m not really buying anything new .. just old ones where I was not able to get my hands on one during that time (especially anything from 2001 – 2008). I still see plenty of gals wearing Bal, but yes, there are so many brands out there that are also very nice and variety is nice. Just wanted to give some perspective as to the “why” the prices are so low now. Should you buy a Balenciaga City bag for investment purposes – NO, you should only buy it if you really love it and plan to keep it.

Melmoku
Melmoku
5 years ago

I def. have a taste of nostalgia for the Balenciaga City bag! I was soooo close to buying a white mini for summer a year ago but chose the Givenchy Pandora cross body instead. Idk, for some reason the Balenciaga City reminds me of wafting around a CA beach in low-rise hip huggers and a sleeveless cami. So effortless, but also edgy. Usually I HATE unstructured and slouchy bags, but for this one I can make an exception!

She-ra Princess
She-ra Princess
5 years ago

At one time I had 31 Balenciaga bags. I loved the smooshy leather and edgy look, and all the colors. So many colors. Beautiful pinks, blues, greens, reds, yellows, browns, anthracites (every year a little different). And the GSH. My favorite.

Then on a dark day, Balenciaga announced that Alexander Wang was taking over and since then, the brand has declined so much. The leather changed, the colors weren’t so vibrant and unique and a bag that, in my personal opinion, gives off a 80’s rock, Black Velvet kind of look was taken down the dark road of Urban Chic. Because of this decline in a style that I loved, I started to slowly find my way to other brands, looking for something that made me feel how Bal bags made me feel. I stumbled on the Chanel Enchained Boy and slowly made the switch, selling all but 1 of my Bals. I know Wang is no longer with Balenciaga but that initial cut sent me to explore other options and my Bal broken heart still hasn’t fully recovered.

Now, I would never pay the money they’re asking for a new Bal bag, as I noticed, like stated in this article, the resale value is terrible. But I do still love my Cyclamen with GSH and just purchased an Atlantique GSH in like new condition for only $750. Both were pre 2012. I may get another one in the Anthracite with GSH but never new again, not like they’ve produced anything I would like anyways.

Janet Laird
Janet Laird
5 years ago

Timeless classic and great investment for sure! This bag got me into handbag obsession. I love it!!! My dream bag is the Anthracite with the Giant Rose Gold Hardware. Any model.

May
May
5 years ago

I’ve never been in love with the city but it certainly gives me nice feels and it looks like you don’t have to be precious w it either.

UmmIbrahim
UmmIbrahim
5 years ago

I like the classic ones in dark neutrals but I will NEVER buy one new for full price… I can go online and buy a gently used one for well under a grande! I wouldn’t baby one though and kinda treat them like beaters… but such is life! The dark neutrals are classics but look better with an edgier look… if you go for black tees, docs, jeans and leather jackets this bag fits… if your preppy forget it!

klemmiwinks
klemmiwinks
5 years ago

I literally just bought a mint condition City Bag for $500 at a consignment shop the other day. This bag has never appealed to me, and I walked in intending to buy a Peekaboo, but I guess I was wearing the right outfit because everything just clicked!

Anna Nguyen
Anna Nguyen
5 years ago

i think it’s a staple piece with a modern look and there are so many great colors. i love that there is no logo all over the bag.

Rebecca L
Rebecca L
3 years ago

So I have some good news for anyone looking for a Balenciaga City bag, I found a amazing company out of Canada LUSHER Leather that makes a bag that’s a cute reimaging of this bag but in super soft Italian leather, so a more boho look. I bought my first one in cognac color then a second in the blush which is beautiful and reminds my of their lilac color and just received my third in the military green. I highly recommend checking them out if you are looking for a bag like the Balenciage City Bag today.