How to Buy and Preserve Chanel Handbags

Clockwise from left: Chanel caviar leather shoulder bag; Chanel quilted cotton shoulder bag; Chanel gold lizard wallet on chain; Chanel nubuck caviar leather shoulder bag, Ladybag International

By: Fiona McKay & Xenia Capacete Caballero

The Chanel bag has always been viewed as a timeless classic. Yet, more recently the luxury item has become increasingly sought-after as an investment, with styles such as the 2.55 and Boy Bag selling well over their estimates at auction.

We asked 4 experts for advice on collecting Chanel handbags, how to identify authentic examples, and the key to preserving their condition. Here’s what they said.

Keeping With the Classics

“A long-term investment in a Chanel bag must be based on classic models, emblematic of the brand,” says Jerome Lalande, specialist at Tajan.

Lalande adds, “The Chanel bag was primarily an evening or special event bag, not so much a travel or sports bag. Since it was created, it has evolved into one for everyday use. Rectangular and compact, the 2.55, the Classic, or the Timeless are all iconic models of the Chanel house.”

“The most coveted Chanel handbag style is the classic flap and 2.55 double flap classic,” says Adrienne Astrologo, owner and CEO of Ladybag International.

The 2.55

Born out of practicality, the classic 2.55 quilted flap bag, introduced in February 1955, came complete with adjustable long double-chain strap and was designed by Coco Chanel for the modern woman to have free use of her hands. Still popular 50 years later, Chanel reissued the original design in 2005. Even following Chanel’s death in 1971 and Karl Lagerfeld’s reign at the house since the 1980s, the 2.55 has remained a staple.

Chanel 2.55 medium classic flap from 2006, black quilted lambskin, sold at Chiswick Auctions
for £2,040 (October 2016).

Since its first introduction, Chanel has produced numerous versions of the original 2.55 black caviar leather design. These editions can be found in an array of colors and leathers including exotic skins, as well as variations in the strap and lock designs.

Chanel 2.55 flap bag from 2011, gold Python skin, sold at Chiswick Auctions
for £3600 (December 2016).

Various sizes of the 2.55 “have increased in value, with the larger ones more in demand now,” says Susie Nelson of Modes and More at Gray’s Antiques. Meg Randell, designer bag specialist at Chiswick Auctions, adds that “Chanel flap bags do well in auction, and are just as popular now as they were in the 1950s – or even more popular. Examples with related documents and ephemera, as well as those that have kept the original packaging (dust bag, box, and authenticity card) will maximize the value of your Chanel bag.”

The Boy Bag & WOC

Chanel classic flap Boy Bag, cherry red perforated leather,
Ladybag International

A more recent design by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel is the “Boy Bag,” named after Coco Chanel’s lover and muse, Boy Capel. According to Randell, “…this design is quickly becoming one of the brand’s most wanted designs and looks set to become a classic.” Randell also cites the evening “Wallet on Chain” or “WOC” as “another classic Chanel handbag.”

Chanel Cruise vanity case, carved mahogany with studded edges, signed CC,
sold for CHF4,013 ($3,953) at Hôtel des Ventes de Genève (June 2016).

Although more unusual examples have performed well at auction, such as the mahogany vanity case shown above, Christina Robinson, specialist at Geneva auction house Hôtel des Ventes, still believes that classic models are “a timeless accessory” that avoid devaluation.

Preserving Condition

Lalande notes that if you’re buying a Chanel bag as an investment, you should keep all boxes and the original invoices, to then resell in the best condition with guaranteed authenticity.

For vintage dealer Susie Nelson, “condition is key.” She also stresses that preserving the condition of the bag will not only help with longevity but also increase its value. To do so, our experts recommend:

1) Keep the shape of the bag, stuffing it with acid free tissue paper. Be careful not to over stuff it, closing it comfortably.

2) Tuck the shoulder strap inside of the bag as this can leave marks on the leather, according to Randell. Robinson recommends placing silk paper or a small cloth “between the remaining exposed straps and top of the bag,” as well as in between the flaps.

3) When storing your bag, never pile it up with others, as they will become misshapen, says Robinson. For quilted bags, store upright on its bottom and not in a box as it will flatten the quilting.

4) For repairs and conditioning, take your bag to a Chanel boutique. If using the bag, avoid carrying items that can potentially leave marks or keep these items inside a plastic bag.

5) Always keep your bag in a dust cover, and avoid getting it wet.

6) Don’t use the same bag everyday. “Let it rest,” says Lalande. “Make sure to empty your bag regularly, removing all unnecessary items within it.”

7) Try not to put your bag on the floor. Opt for a table or chair, or leave it in a cloakroom.

“Every piece in a collection should be cared for like the precious piece of artwork it is,” says Astrologo.

Determining Authenticity

Lot 1046, Chanel mini classic flap bag, mauve quilted,
Ahlers & Ogletree (January 2017)

Due to the increase of good quality of Chanel fakes on the market today, Robinson and Randell recommend double-checking the following factors to help you determine if your bag is authentic:

1) CC Lock: The ‘C’ has to overlap the left at the top and the left overlap the right at the bottom with the lock centered.

2) Chain Strap: This should have seamless and perfect stitching on the leather with no bumps or double layers.

3) Stitch Count: 2.55 bags should have a minimum of 11 stitches per inch.

4) Lining: It should fit tight against the whole bag.

5) Logo Stamping: Not all Chanel bags have a stamping mark embossed on their CC lock. The color of the stamping inside of your bag should match the hardware.

6) Serial Number Sticker and Authenticity Card: Introduced in 1984 and unique to each bag, they have between 6 and 8 numbers only. Placement of the sticker varies with the model. The card number should match the sticker, with no hologram effect; thick and coated with plastic. Bags from 2005 onwards feature a grey circular symbol on the top right of the card.

7) Typography: Ensure the bag has the official Chanel typography.

8) Buy from a trusted, reputable auction house, dealer, or a Chanel boutique.

Classic Chanel bags are timeless and worthy investments that will add a great feature to your wardrobe and, if preserved properly, will also add further value to your budding collection.

See a selection of vintage and new Chanel handbags available now on Invaluable.

About Fiona McKay & Xenia Capacete

Fiona and Xenia are the founders of White Line Projects, a curatorial and creative studio based in London. White Line Projects curates, designs, and produces a diverse range of projects including exhibitions, installations and digital experiences, and websites for clients in the fashion and cultural sectors. Fiona, Xenia, and the team at White Line Projects bring a diverse combination of skills and background experience, from visual communications and 3D technologies, to architecture, art history, and exhibition design, to theatre design and performing arts.