Christie's to Sell Pricey Preowned Handbags in Hong Kong – Creme de la Creme Consigners: Pre Owned Handbags, Used Handbags, Luxury Consignment
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Christie's to Sell Pricey Preowned Handbags in Hong Kong

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Auctioneer to Rely on 26-Year-Old Matthew Rubinger to Attract Buyers

Updated Sept. 23, 2014 11:15 p.m. ET
Christie's names Matthew Rubinger to head a newly created vintage-bags category for Asia. Mr. Rubinger talks about what makes a vintage handbag valuable.
Matthew Rubinger perfected the art of finding and selling used handbags from the likes of Hermès and Gucci, at an auction house in New York.

Now, after being hired away by rival auctioneer Christie's, the 26-year-old handbag expert is being deployed to practice that art in Hong Kong, as the company tries to expand its clientele in the growing Asian market.

On Nov. 24, Christie's International PLC will hold its first sale in Hong Kong dedicated to preowned bags made by Hermès, Chanel and other expensive labels. The New York-based art auction house, the world's largest, is hoping to repeat the success that Mr. Rubinger had at his previous position at Heritage Auctions in New York, where he's credited with establishing and expanding the market for used luxury handbags, and is known for the sale of a diamond-adorned red crocodile Hermès Birkin bag that went for a record price of $203,000 in 2011.

Christie's is also hoping that the bags can attract new buyers in Hong Kong, where sales have been soaring, spurred by mainland Chinese demand for everything from Qing-dynasty vases to bottles of top Burgundy wines. The city is now its third-largest hub for sales, after New York and London.

Handbags are "an entry point for new clients, for people who have heard of Christie's but have never bought from us," said François Curiel, chairman of Christie's Asia Pacific. "It's like wine. You buy wine because you're a wine lover; then you see the other categories, like art, and buy other things."

Christie's is better known for selling paintings at eye-watering prices, such as Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucien Freud," which went for a record-setting $142.4 million in 2013.

It began selling used handbags in 2004, as part of its fashion or jewelry sales in London. Last year, the auction house began selling handbags via online auctions.

In Hong Kong, a city that already boasts seven Hermès stores and is a major shopping hub for neighboring mainland Chinese looking to get their luxury fix, Christie's is particularly hoping to increase the number of women buyers.

"It's a female-focused category, and that's a great thing for us," said Mr. Rubinger, who is Christie's new international director for handbags and accessories. "If the husband is looking at contemporary art and the wife isn't interested in the piece, the wife can look at bags. Classically, most auction categories are male-dominated."

Mr. Rubinger's first job is to scout out owners of rare handbags who are willing to sell their goods on consignment.

This 1998 alligator Birkin bag sold for $77,323 at a Christie?s auction in London in 2010. Christie's
Mr. Curiel said that clients in Europe with large handbag collections are "most attracted" to the idea of consigning bags to a Hong Kong sale. "They've seen the Chinese buyers waiting in line at 6 a.m. at Hermès to buy a bag," he said. "It's about the aura of the Asian buyer that is being so powerful."

The handbags, which can range from limited-edition crocodile-skin Hermès clutches to Chanel bags in the shape of the namesake's No. 5 perfume bottle, typically range in price from 50,000 to 450,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$6,450 to US$58,055), though certain rare items can fetch much more.

"Collectors want a Birkin in crocodile or in a discontinued color," Mr. Rubinger said, referring to the iconic Hermès bag. "They're looking for rarities, limited editions from top designers."

Bags that appear in high-profile ad campaigns or runway shows can sometimes command a premium. Among labels, Hermès and Chanel dominate, he said, but other brands, including Louis Vuitton and Gucci, will also appear in sales.

This Hermès Birkin bag in crocodile, estimated to be worth as much as US$58,000, will be for sale at the upcoming November auction in Hong Kong. Christie's
Mr. Rubinger first became interested in handbags when he bought one as a gift for his mother when he was 13 years old, in Chappaqua, New York. After finding out that the bag he bought, a novel item made of candy wrappers, could be sold at a higher price, he took it back and sold it online for profit.

By the time he was in high school, Mr. Rubinger had graduated to Louis Vuitton and Chanel bags, ferreting them out from antique shops and closets and reselling them online to fashionistas. During college, he worked at an online retailer called DropShop (now Portero) to start its luxury handbag category before starting at Heritage Auctions in 2010. He joined Christie's in August and promptly moved to Hong Kong.

Though new to the city, Mr. Rubinger says already he's impressed by women's knowledge of their luxury bags.

"Asian clients are very sophisticated," he said. "They know the specific color names; they know the years that certain bags were made. They know more than clients in other parts of the world."

Write to Jason Chow at

Corrections & Amplifications

François Curiel is the chairman of Christie's Asia Pacific. A previous version of the article incorrectly described Mr. Curiel as president of Christie's in Asia.

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