Closet Confessionals

CC 221: The Vintage Hermès Hunter

"I hunted for that bag for 6 years before another one came around."

Today, we meet a collector who took up collecting vintage Hermès after falling down a tPF rabbit hole. It was in her late 50s that CC 221 became enamored by the world of handbags, purchasing a Fendi Spy bag as her first and later a Kelly bag, eventually falling for the world of vintage Hermès.

That very Spy Bag taught this collector about resale value, which has pushed her to strictly shop the secondhand market. Even when she’s not shopping for vintage items, she will consult Fashionphile, vowing to never buy even a current bag new.

CC 221 is an active tPF member, and throughout her retirement, she’s enjoyed the entire process of hunting for rare vintage Hermès bags online. Her collection is full of beautiful pieces that many of us have never even seen before, though she does have a small collection of other designer bags to add some color and variety to her rotation.

CC 221’s passion for collection is evident, and the joy bags bring to her life is so relatable! Read the full in-depth CC below, and don’t forget to share your own!

Basic Bio

Your Age? Old enough for social security
Your Gender Identity? Female
Where do you live? On the Gulf Coast
What is your occupation? Landlord
What industry do you work in? Property Management
Your annual salary? $0.00
Total Household Income? $200,000
Are you a PurseForum member?

Onto The Bags

How many bags do you own? 25

What bags are in your collection?

My collection is primarily small vintage TBT bags (lady bags or for me—date bags). My love of these bags comes from this thread.

Larger more recent Hermès:

  • CasaBox Raisin Box (rare and probably made for Asian market as prototype of Toolbox)
  • Convoyeur Top Handle in Etain Evercolor
  • 28 Kelly in Porc dyed black by Doc Ride
  • 30 Birkin Ciel clémence

Other designers mostly for larger bags and to add more color to my collection:

Hermes Sac

How much is your collection worth? $42,000

What is your most expensive bag? The Birkin is my most expensive. I am not really a Birkin fan. Must have looked at 1,000 Birkins online over a couple of years, and only liked maybe 3. But all my TPF girlfriends all had 1 or more, and I wanted to experience what the big deal was.

Found one in an appealing color that works for my sub-tropical climate for $6,000 from Japanese reseller. It looked in good shape to me but was dirty. Its prior owner must have bathed in hand lotion. Bababebi authenticated it for me. This is the only bag impulsive purchase I have made. Figured if I didn’t like it, I could sell it without losing money given the rock bottom purchase price.

It cleaned up nicely, but I was embarrassed to carry it because… it was a Birkin, Was afraid people would thing it was a fake and more afraid people would think it was real. It is not my favorite bag, but discovered it is fun to take to Miami. It fits in with the Don Johnson Miami vice vibe. It is growing on me.

Do you ever regret any of your bag purchases? If so, which ones and why? I would not say that I regret any purchases, but I have made mistakes. When you purchases from resellers, as you must when buying vintage, you make mistakes because you can’t feel the bag before buying. I have had 3 “deep vintage” that I resold.

My 1948 Vache Kelly was too delicate. It was beyond gorgeous, but it had to be re-oiled every time it was carried, as it scuffed so easily. My Burgundy Sac Mallete was a museum piece which was fascinating to look at and play with. A friend said carrying it would make her feel like she was on the Orient Express. It was too heavy carry for a day to day bag.

My Sac 404 was so elegant, but the clasp was too hard for me. There were few other bags I sold because they were too large. I enjoyed living with these bags and admiring them for a few years, but if I don’t want to carry them, I sell them.

What age did you get your first designer bag, and what was it? Before retirement, when I was in my late 50s. I was a CPA specializing in financial analysis for attorneys to use in court. We had a client who brought in the most gorgeous bag I had ever seen and plopped it up on the conference room table. I was smitten. I didn’t know what it was, but I now believe it was a black box Kelly.

That started me down the purse rabbit hole. A Kelly ended up being one of my early purchases, but it seemed too crazy expensive for a first bag out of the chute. My first bag was the Spy Bag. I worked in Century City in LA and felt so chic going up the escalator with my Spy bag and my Lubies. LA is fashion forward and it was the right bag for the time, the city, and my profession.

It retailed for $2,000. I bought it from eBay for $1,000 after it was slipping from IT bag status. If I sold it now, I would net $200. It taught me that all bags but Hermès depreciate, so no point in buying them new. With Hermès, I can always get my money back if I am careful on the purchase price.

Is there a specific bag you are looking to purchase next? There are two more bags that I want and then I am done. Hermès Massai 32 in Gris Tourterelle and a Saint Laurent shopping bag in Blush Pink. I am flirting with the idea of an LV Totally PM in Damier Azur as a travel bag, but I have my doubts about the vachetta handles. I need to go to Fashionphile and try one on.

Do you have a ‘holy grail’ dream bag you’ve always wanted to own? The Vibrato Picotin was my grail and I got it in the past year. I saw one at Paris reseller. Thought about it overnight. Came back the next day and it was on hold for a famous name from yesteryear. DH was obsessed with me having that bag.

For him, it was the one that got away. I liked it a lot but he LOVED that bag. I hunted for that bag for 6 years before another one came around. It turned out to be fabulously easy to carry and practical which is good given how much DH wanted me to have it, It thrills him every carry it.

Any particular bag that holds a special sentimental value? The Spy bag that was my first and that fit my persona at that time in my life.

Do you feel like your bags change people’s perceptions of you or how you’re treated? I don’t buy bags with logos. No one recognizes my bags or if they do, they don’t show it. I have had a single comment in an over a decade and it was from a waitress on my Prada. When I go to the Hermès boutique, I put on TPF uniform of a Hermès scarf, Hermès jewelry, and an Hermès bag so they will realize I belong to the tribe.

Most SAs have never seen vintage bags like mine. They can be very interested or not interested at all. I think I am treated better for wearing the uniform but not for the bag. Birkins don’t impress them either. They see a million of those.

More often the perception of designer bags can be negative. I was volunteering at a community event when I spotted an orange Birkin on the arm of someone getting in a car. I mentioned to the volunteer next to me that the woman was carrying a $10,000 bag. He spun around and said “How do you know?…. You don’t have a $10,000 bag, do you?” I said no, which was true because my Birkin did not cost $10,000.

On a tour of China (pre-pandemic) the women of our group wanted to go to the mall in Shanghai that had a fakes store. I wanted to see how good the fakes were. They were not good. On the subway back to the hotel, the other women were asking me how to spot fakes. It got very uncomfortable until I said I collect “vintage” bags so I look at a lot of bags. Everyone relaxed. The message was clear. Vintage was ok, Authentic current designer was not.

How do you take care of your bags? Mostly I use the products Doc Ride originally recommended. Maintaining them is part of the collecting hobby. I did send the Birkin to the Hermès spa. I just wanted it cleaned but they wouldn’t take no for an answer on replacing the Turnlock and a popped stitch.

Hermes Rio

On Shopping

How often do you buy new bags? I had a plan for the bags I wanted to purchase. To purchase vintage bags, you just have to wait and watch until the one you want comes up in the right condition, size, color and price. There can be long dry spells and then times that the searched for bags come up all at once.

Those times, I would buy on PayPal credit and pay them off over 6 months interest free. In general, vintage Hermès bags are not that popular so there was not much competition for the bags I was considering. There were bags that I pondered for up to a year before buying. In that year, the price often came down to what I was willing to pay.

Do you prefer shopping for bags online or in-store? Why? The vintage bags I want are not typically for sale in a store. The more current , non Hermès, models sometimes are. I visited My Boy Bag at the reseller before buying to check its condition since the condition was not discernible from the pictures. Then I waited until the next price drop before pulling the trigger.

Which stores do you frequent the most? Before my designer days, I bought bags at Nordstrom and Marshalls. Now I do not frequent any stores. I sometimes go to Hermès boutiques to meet up with TPF friends, but there is really nothing there for me except for an occasional current season scarf.

Have you ever returned a bag after purchasing it? Why did you make that decision? The one exception to nothing new is I purchased an LV Graceful from the boutique. I got it home and decided it was not comfortable, so I returned it. I purchased it to be a shoulder carry and the fit was just too snug.

Do you ever buy second-hand bags? Where do you buy used? Most of my vintage (+25 years old) came from Vestaire Collective and from eBay. My more current, non Hermès bags mostly come from Fashionphile as they have excellent pictures and they accept returns.

Do you sell old bags to pay for new purchases? I sell bags but not to finance new purchases. I sell them because they turn out to be too large or uncomfortable in some other way. If I sell a bag under $2,000, I will sell on eBay. If it is over $2,000 I use Ann’s Fabulous Finds.

Do you ever donate or gift your old bags? If so, to whom? No.

Do you ever feel societal pressure to purchase more bags? No.

Do you consider your bag purchases investments? I consider them to be an investment in joy. A financial investment–not so much. If not carefully managed, they can be a financial loss.

Do you follow the latest fashion trends when deciding on your next purchase, or do you prefer classic styles? Classic styles in heritage leathers.

Are sales associate relationships instrumental to your shopping? Sales associates and boutiques make me nervous. I like taking my time and thinking about purchases and their input just confuses me when it comes to scarves. My shopping history with Hermès is mostly returns of scarves I have bought online and found that the colors are not quite right. That is not the kind of purchase history that gets you a quota bag.

Do you enjoy shopping beyond just acquiring something new? Hunting for the desired bag or the desired scarf online is a joyously interesting pastime. What does one do with themselves when they reach purse peace or scarf peace?

Have you ever felt you received inferior service at a store or boutique due to your appearance, ethnicity, or gender? No.

What are some factors that may dissuade you from buying a bag, even if you like it? Comfort. It has to feel good. The comfort of the handles is non negotiable. The depth of the bag is important because mow people down if the bag is too wide. I am not keen on bags with zippers so I tend to avoid those unless the zipper is soft and sort of disappears into the side of the bag. I have considered certain non Hermès bags but have watched them not wear well when they appear on the resale market.

Is there a brand you outright refuse to buy? Why? No.

5 Clou de forge 10x6 615

On Budgeting & Perceptions

Who pays for your bags? DH and I have had one pot of money since the beginning. We are one of the few couples we know that don’t have separate bank accounts.

Do you set aside a budget for your bag purchases? I did not like discussing my purchases with DH and getting his buy in, so we set aside $700 per month for my luxury purchases. He would actually be more generous about the amount than I would. $8,400 a year is plenty of money for me to spend on purses and scarves, IMHO. The limit was actually helpful because it kept my purchasing at a slow pace and many times I fell out of love with a bag or scarf before I got around to buying it.

Have you ever purchased a counterfeit because you couldn’t afford a designer item? I purchased a counterfeit Birkin, but not because I couldn’t afford the real thing. I purchased the fake Birkin to make sure that the 30 size was the right size for me. I was concerned I would be uncomfortable with the 6 inch depth. I actually carried it a couple of times when visiting an inhospitable climate.

We made several trips to a Central American country on the edge of a rain forrest. It rains there ALOT, so I did not want to carry a bag that would be ruined by the water. I carried the fake Birkin, always making sure that identifying side would be next to my body, so no one in the airport would think it was a Birkin. What I learned out of that–fakes fall apart quickly.

Do you ever hide purchases from your significant other? A few times for a few months. I knew he would hate a few of them because to him they look like granny bags, so I wanted to wait for the right time to spring them on him.

Have your friends or family ever criticized your bag-buying habits? If so, how did you respond? I don’t tell my friends. My bestie has no clue how much my bags cost and really doesn’t notice what I carry. Under the radar is my motto. I did fess up to my high school best friend because we were together the day I wanted to take the Birkin to the spa. I explained the whole Hermès thing to her before going to the boutique. She was surprisingly non judgmental and was actually supportive of me keeping the bag, because I was thinking about selling it.

Have you ever made a significant sacrifice to afford a bag? If so, what was it? No.

Do you think your shopping is ever a problem? Have you ever felt like you were struggling with a shopping addiction? No. I buy bags at a tortoise pace. From TPF, I have learned that my bag collection (25) and my scarf collection (50) are much smaller than most other collectors. I get uncomfortable when I feel like I have more than I can carry or wear.

Let’s get personal…

Any other expensive hobbies or passions? Collecting Hermès scarves is expensive. But on the other hand, your clothes go further because you can wear the same thing and it looks totally different with a different scarf. Besides who looks at your clothes when you are wearing an Hermès scarf–it is a show stealer.

What is your greatest fear? Which living person do you most admire? I am careful with my things and I fear damaging them. Because of that, I often enjoy wearing the items in my collection that are in less than pristine shape even though most of my bags are pretty pristine. My beater Balenciaga has gotten the most wear. Its cost per wear must be pennies.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? I love DH more every year we are married, and we are now at 33 years together.

What is your favorite journey you have taken so far? Egypt. Besides seeing all the artifacts, loved staying at a boutique hotel in the Muslim quarter of Cairo. It was amazing to be on the rooftop terrace and hear all the calls to prayer from the many mosques come on at the same time and then fade away at the same time. And just in case you are wondering, I carried a beater BV shoulder bag on that trip and it did come home worse for the wear. Given my fear of damage, I don’t carry precious bags on international travel.

Any parting words you would like to share with our readers? Go slow in building a collection. It takes a while to learn what works for you. You can’t really know what a bag is going to be like until you own it, so it is ok to buy (after doing your research) and then re-home your mistakes.


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