In addition to their beauty and history, many vintage purses are worth money to collectors. If you have a vintage or antique purse, find out about the signs that it may be valuable. Certain brands, characteristics, and eras add to the value of antique purses.
Types of Valuable Vintage and Antique Purses
Certain types of vintage purses are valuable because collectors covet them. Keep an eye out for the following at antique stores and auctions.
Antique Gold Mesh Purses
Metal mesh purses were popular during the last part of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Most are made of brass or other less valuable metals, but some are much more precious. Purses made of gold mesh are among the most valuable. These come in many shapes, sizes, and styles, and they can bear various designer names. A circa 1900 antique gold mesh purse with acorn finials sold at Christies for more than $10,000 in 2011. It's one of the highest recent purse sales by that auction house.
Nantucket Lightship Basket Purses
These charming purses look like baskets with carved bone sea animals on the lids. They were made throughout the 1950s and 1960s by designers like Stephen Gibbs and José Formoso Reyes. You'll often see these selling for hundreds of dollars, but special examples can fetch more. For example, a vintage Nantucket Lightship basket purse by José Formoso Reyes featuring a carved whale sold for $2,575 on eBay in 2020.
Antique Purses With Jeweled Frames
Many antique purses feature metal frames, and the quality of the craftsmanship and materials in the frame can dramatically affect the purse's value. These can be jewelry-quality pieces with sterling silver, gold, and precious gems. For example, an antique purse with a diamond and emerald frame sold for more than $11,000 at Christies in 2003.
Antique Micro-Beaded Purses
Micro-beaded purses use thousands of tiny beads to create a design or even a scene on the purse. The workmanship required to make this type of purse is part of the value, and finding examples in good condition is difficult because they are rare. However, if you have one, it may be worth a lot. An antique micro-beaded purse with a sterling silver frame sold for over $2,500 on eBay in 2020.
Vintage Lucite Handbags
Lucite handbags can also be very valuable. These vintage purses were made of clear plastic and were especially popular during the 1950s and 1960s. According to Country Living, an especially well-preserved example can sell for as much as $900.
Vintage Purses by Coveted Brands
Certain brands stand out as being especially valuable to collectors. Many of these are still the most expensive designer purse brands today. According to Invaluable, the following designers and brands are worth the most:
- Louis Vuitton
Three Characteristics of Antique and Vintage Purses Worth Money
The brand and type of a vintage or antique purse isn't the only thing that can make it valuable, however. If you're planning to start a vintage handbag collection, look for certain characteristics in a vintage purse or antique handbag.
Unique and Interesting Designs
Interesting designs that offer a unique style statement tend to be worth the most, especially if they come from a notable designer or brand. For example, a Judith Leiber Couture rhinestone popcorn bag was among the top-selling handbags on eBay in 2020. The bag looked like a sparkling box of popcorn hanging from a chain. It sold for $2,700.
Exceptionally Good Condition for Their Age
Some collectors will pay well for coveted bags in less than perfect shape. However, if you're hoping to get the most for a bag, it should be in exceptionally good shape for its age. Signs of use, such as scuffs, stains, ink marks, tears, and worn hardware will detract from its value. Odors can also cause a bag to be worth less. It's important to note that antique bags may have a patina, or beauty that comes from age. This is not the same as damage.
Emblematic of Their Era
An antique purse's value is tied to its era. For example, a purse from the 1890s will be worth more if it has elements of Art Nouveau style. Similarly, a purse from the 1950s should have that mid-century look.
Preserving the Lasting Value of Antique Purses
If you are lucky enough to have one of these antique or vintage purses, their value also depends on proper care and storage. Learn how to store handbags to preserve their beauty. That way, your antique purse will be as valuable in a generation as it is today.