The Interview: Bonhams’ Marissa Speer on the booming secondary market for luxury handbags and fashion

Marissa Speer is an expert in luxury and vintage fashion. Having spent 20 years in the market, most recently at US resale platform TheRealReal where she worked in authentication and valuation, she has been snapped up by historic auction house Bonhams to launch its handbags & fashion business in the US.

The department, which was first launched in the UK in 2020, will present for auction designer handbags, accessories and ready-to-wear from names such as Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. The auction house, best known for selling precious art and artefacts, stages around 15 designer handbag and fashion sales a year with dedicated Bonhams experts represented in London, Paris, Hong Kong, and now the US, reaching clients in over 90 countries. 

Spear tells about why this market has exploded in recent years, what customers look for in a sale and the best bags and brands to invest in now and for the future.

Luxury resale is a booming market now, but you have been a true trailblazer in this space, please tell us how you got into the market.

I have always had a love of vintage for as long as I can remember, my mom always said I was born in the wrong era! I began my career working for Resurrection a world-renowned luxury vintage store that was the first of its kind. Kate Moss was one of their first ever clients in New York. Working there for almost a decade, I gained a library full of archival knowledge from developing an eye for value and collectability, to understanding references in design, and what to look for in authenticity. I then moved to The RealReal for almost a decade, where I was part of a smaller team, helping to grow the business from a start up to the business going public. I then was part of a larger team that oversaw authentication and valuation, which has now become industry standard.

How have you seen the space evolve in recent years and how has the attitude of shoppers and brands changed towards resale?

It has been such a joy watching luxury resale become a household trend. The resale industry is projected to reach $64 billion by 2024, an extraordinary figure considering the market was worth $24 billion only 4 years ago. Back in the early 2000’s, there was a stigma attached to luxury resale and vintage that it was “used” or “second hand”. There was a specific clientele that didn’t go beyond the fashion industry and top tier fashion darlings, but now you hear the words archival and sustainable used in such a glorified way. Being dressed in resale or vintage is now a bragging right as opposed to a secret.

Fashion houses have embraced the trend and are frequently releasing archival designs in seasonal collections. Prada Tessuto bags from the 90’s have found their way onto the runways and Gucci is having success with both the Bamboo 1947 handle bags and Horsebit 1955 bag which recall the houses original heritage designs. It is so wonderful to see!

You’ve joined Bonhams in the newly created role of Head of Sale in the US, can you please summarise what that role entails?

I am so thrilled to be creating this new department as Bonhams Head of Sale in the US. Luxury fashion and handbags are clearly a passion of mine and my goal is to bring that enthusiasm to our clients. Bonhams has hundreds of years of experience delivering fantastic results, and I plan on extending that success into a category where many US clients may not realize the potential fashion brands can have at auction. Through education on brands that hold their value, I plan to mirror our European and Hong Kong teams’ successes and introduce US clients to this new market.


The Porosus Crocodile Birkin 25 sold in 2022 which achieved $189,375

That such a prestigious auction house as Bonhams is expanding its luxury resale auctions is clearly indicative of a booming market. How would you describe the kinds of customers who buy from Bonhams and are they different from those at TheRealReal for instance?

Our global clients have discerning and elegant tastes, and you see that across our other departments. My goal is to create an approachable environment for both existing and new clients who have an interest in purchasing and selling. There doesn’t have to be a certain client for a specific sales platform. We will hold both public and online sales allowing access for anyone to browse, place a bid, or submit an item with options to suit their needs. When I first started in the industry, the public was not shopping at auction, I want to change that. Bonhams is a very special auction house, and we pride ourselves on having experts who are passionate specialists committed to delivering an excellent level of personalised client service, so everyone feels looked after.

How does Bonhams source and authenticate the product it sells and what are the brands and models it most seeks out?

There is an industry standard to authentication, at Bonhams all items are carefully vetted for authenticity and quality so clients can buy with confidence. Each brand is different, but there are certain markers on each item that I look for and make sure they are consistent to what we should see normally. I work with luxury products every day, so if something seems inconsistent, cheaply made, or my gut is telling me something is off, I will always investigate deeper.

During a typical handbag sale, can you tell us about the range of product and prices we might expect to see?

Even though I curate to a high level of luxury brands, I do make sure that there is something for everyone. Even if something is not necessarily expensive, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market, for example, Hermès scarves range from $200 to $2,000, I try to have a variance. With that being said, I am not necessarily looking at pricing when I curate a sale, I am looking for beautiful pieces that I know there is a market for, and where there is demand. The range of product can include amazing bags and an historically important piece of clothing, for example, we sold a Galliano Dior Newspaper dress which achieved $15,000 and Hermès Birkin’s that can price as high as $190,000.

If someone was looking to start investing in handbags, where would you advise that they start?

I am asked this question a lot and I always have the same answer. Buy what you love from a brand that holds value. If you are just starting to collect, don’t buy them just for their value and let them sit in your closet. Design is supposed to be fun and individual, enjoy them, wear them, show them off!

Design and value also ebbs and flows. Five years ago, you couldn’t get more than $200 for a Fendi vintage baguette or a Dior saddle bag, the market has recently exploded, and they now achieve $1,000 and in some cases $2,000. Sometimes trends are not predictable, so you may spend money on something that decreases in value from a brand that doesn’t have the staying power such as Chanel or Hermès. The number one priority is to enjoy the piece!


Jane Birkin’s Black Togo Birkin 35, which sold for £119,000

What has been the most valuable item you have seen sell at auction in the luxury bag realm?

Notable lots would be Jane Birkin’s black Togo Birkin 35 that Bonhams sold in 2021 which achieved £119,000, and a Hermès 18k white gold and diamond shiny braise Porosus Crocodile Birkin 25 sold in 2022 which achieved $189,375.

In your view which are the brands/models that are the best investments for serious collectors?

No matter the current trends, the holding value of Hermès Birkins is unchanging. The slightest trend we are seeing affecting price is sizing. Right now, 25cm are extremely popular, but we are seeing a lift in the larger 35cm and 40cm. If you want to play it safe and are looking for value retainment, you can’t go wrong with any neutral color in 30cm. It’s a good mid-size piece that isn’t on the extreme of tiny or oversize. Color trends change, for example whites and pastels are popular, but a few years ago jewel tones were all the rage, it is always a safe bet to go for neutrals or gold and black with gold hardware.

The true luxury houses like Chanel and Hermès have been increasing the prices of their new products quite considerably, how does this affect resale value?

In the secondary market, we do take notice of retail pricing and subsequent raises, however, availability in the retail market and demand in the secondary market is really what persuades secondary market pricing. If a bag has a retail increase and is available for purchase in store, it really won’t affect secondary pricing, but if a newly released bag is out of stock, we see a lift in demand on the secondary market.

For an item like a Chanel classic double flap bag, you will often find pricing decreases with production dates as it is a design you can always get in store, and there are plenty on the secondary market.

Looking at emerging or smaller designers, which brands do you think customers should be looking at that would be good long-term investments?

Bottega Veneta is having a moment right now, and although silhouettes and hardware change, their Intrecciato leather weave has been a signature staple of the house since the 1970’s. It is always safe to buy timeless classics that will stay consistent with any current trend. That is why Hermès has such staying power, there is consistency.

When is the next big auction and what are the highlights we can expect?

Our next auction will be in November, and we have some beautiful Hermès Birkins and Kellys as well as Chanel clothing and bags, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and vintage Courrèges.

Find out when the next luxury fashion and handbag sale is taking place at

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