Since the medieval era, the development of purses has been rich and diverse. As a result, personal item bags have been an indispensable component of daily living for ages.
Instead of remaining purely functional, handbags have developed into complex works of decorative art and fashionable items.
Rarely do purses from before the 19th century come up for sale nowadays. However, the early 20th-century versions with metal mesh and beadwork are among the most well-liked purses and are valuable among collectors today.
This article will look at the most valuable vintage purses, early popular brands, and value guides. Keep reading.
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The Story of the Early Purses and Popular Brands
In the past, men and women wore purses fastened to their belts or hung from fabric bands around the waist. But, Men’s use of bags significantly decreased after internal pockets were added to male attire around the end of the sixteenth century.
During the seventeenth century, purse designs got more elaborate, exhibiting more intricate forms, embroidery, and trims. The elite frequently gave small presents in lavishly designed purses.
More so, purses acted as “sweet bags,” containing dried flowers, herbs, or scented powder. Others served as gaming bags to hold cash and coins, while some held sewing kits.
In the 18th century, popular designs included the drawstring and pocketbook. In addition, Pinchbeck frames for some handbags were created from a novel metal alloy that resembled gold.
Such bags featured intricate embroidery done with pricey silk and silver threads. In addition, numerous French workshops created magnificent beaded purses using hundreds of tiny beads per square inch.
Beaded bags were popular in the nineteenth century. Purses have also been made of gaudy materials like tortoiseshell and ivory. Ladies still carried coin-holding miser’s purses, drawstring purses, and frame purses.
Women frequently made their own beaded and adorned bags to display their craftsmanship skills. These bags featured gushy Victorian motifs, such as pastoral sights and floral designs.
By the 20th century, no woman ever left the house without her purse. As a result, makers supplied a wide range of creative purse designs to fit all events.
In the 1920s and 1930s, trendy, modern ladies could carry the bare essentials for a night out thanks to tiny dancer purses that swung from the wrist and held a powder puff and a mirror.
New plastics like Bakelite and celluloid were used to make many purses. Different novelty handbags came from cars, dolls, rocket ships, and even military hats.
Today, this fashionable item is still a crucial part of feminine fashion.
Popular Vintage Purse Makers
Early bags showcase the ingenuity and craftsmanship of their creators, from weaving and leatherwork to embroidery and knitting.
These early purses greatly reflected the social standing of the wearer—those in society who had the most money typically owned bags that were more ornately stitched and adorned.
For collectors, some brands stand out as being very desirable. Even today, many of these are still the priciest brands of designer handbags available.
Although there are many early purse manufacturers, the following designers and brands are the most valuable vintage purse makers:
- Hermes:Hermes is one of the long-standing early bag makers. Since the 19th Century, Hermes has been in the business of making bags. They introduced the iconic Birkin bag in 1984 and are still in business today.
- Versace:The Versace fashion company as we know it today created a wide range of fashion accessories in the 90s. Their exquisite creativity led them to create bags and purses that women still use today.
- Celine: The company was initially established in 1945 by Céline Vipiana as a made-to-order, upscale children’s shoe company. They soon expanded their range to include opulent women’s shoes; from 1945 to 1997, the brand included a variety of bags, gloves, and outfits.
- Louis Vuitton:The Louis Vuitton company, which started in the 1800s by Louis Vuitton started by making safe locks. By 1925 they introduced portable bags and went on to create luxurious purses and bags that are still in vogue today.
- Gucci:The company created handbags in different materials and sizes. They also made purses for women and were typically used for carrying money, perfume, makeup, and other small items. It is one of the most well-known and sought-after Gucci products.
The original Gucci handbag, known for its bamboo handle, was created in 1947.
Most Valuable Vintage Purposes Worth Money
Shopping for vintage purses is always fascinating, no matter how well the bag is kept. More than anything else, your choice of vintage purses can reveal a lot about your personality.
It is a clear reflection of your preferences and way of life. For example, many people worldwide enjoy collecting different handbags and spending a lot of money on them.
Here is a list of the most costly antique purses found online if valuable handbags intrigue and fascinate you.
Vintage Wilardy Mother Of Pearl Pear Shaped Lucite Purse with Envelope Lid
Starting the list is this vintage Wilardy Lucite purse with an envelope lid with a mother of pearl shape. It also has a classic twisted handle, a chic black satin lining, and an inside pocket with the “Wilardy of NY” inscription in gold letters.
According to the seller, the lid and latch fix securely to closure, and there are a few surface flaws, but no chips, odors, cracks, or clouding.
The only thing that seems to be barricading this purse from being in excellent condition is that the purse’s handle hole has been redrilled.
However, despite these many flaws, the 1970s vintage purse still fetches a little over $150.
Etienne Aigner Vintage Purse
This gorgeous top handle purse by Etienne Aigner is vintage from the 1980s and in superb shape. The rich burgundy color made the designer famous in cordovan leather.
Designer emblems and the depicted huge brass ball clasp are on the front. According to the seller, this purse is part of a collection acquired from Major League Baseball icon Bob Feller’s estate and is in excellent condition.
It is an excellent vintage designer purse that can value up to $189.
Vintage Art Deco Dance Purse
Next on this list of the most valuable purses is this 1930s vintage dance compact in the Art Deco style.
According to the seller, the hinged compact is secured with a metal ball clasp. Also, the exterior of the compact is elegantly designed, with three enamel pieces strategically placed in the center of the front and ornamental metalwork on all six sides.
The compact has a stylish metal chain with styled, four-sided column links; two of the links have a pink stain. You can store a powder inside the compact and remove the powder pad’s frame.
Behind the hinged insert for the powder pad, there is a polished metal mirror that is concealed. In addition, there is a little removable cylinder for lipstick and a slightly curved well for eye shadow.
This piece of the past is valued at $195 online.
Sea Life Themed Pillow Purse
This brutalist mixed metal work is stunning and unique! This bag has a nautical or marine life theme and is made of mixed metals, including brass, silver, and copper.
This purse is particularly distinctive since it is embellished with a sea star (starfish), seaweed, and a sea shell. Exceptional work of art! With this distinctive metal cushion purse, you will stand out in fashion.
This piece is the ideal vintage purse—large enough to fit current cell phones!
The purse would make an exceptional gift because it is spotless, flaw-free, and ready to use.
As common with vintage items, there’s always minor wear or tear except in rare cases of mint condition products. However, this beautiful purse is not left out of the vintage features and still holds a value of $202.
1930s Whiting and Davies Elsah Mesh Purse
The original hangtag and the interior frame of this lovely vintage Whiting and Davis Elsah mesh purse bear the Elsah label. On both sides, there is a very striking flower motif (same pattern).
It has a sturdy, nicely straight, open work frame made of hefty, gold-tone smooth, and lustrous metal. Also, there are no dings, dents, or wear to the finish, and the frame is almost in perfect condition.
The purse is firmly fastened to the frame at all points. Also, according to the seller, there has been no notice of enamel loss in the vivid colors on either side of the handbag; however, it could be a tile that is missing paint.
The picture shows no lining inside the purse, and it has a little dark spot inside that covers just a tiny area. This elegant vintage purse costs about $225 online.
Princess Charming Natural Straw Shell Purse
This chic purse by Atlas is from the 1960s in Hollywood, Florida. It has a natural straw body with shell art. It also had a top lock and was handled in tortoiseshell-colored Lucite. The vintage purse comes with a
flawless pink plastic lining found within.
According to the seller, the purse has no problems; it’s in excellent condition. However, if you want this purse in your collection, you will need about $220.
Floral Needlepoint Embroidery Purse
Another one of the most valuable vintage purses is this gorgeous huge needlepoint embroidery purse from the 1950s with a multicolored floral pattern on the front and back. The bag’s bottom and sides each have the same pattern.
It has a unique kiss-style closure with a gold-tone beautiful metal frame that shuts tightly and functions nicely.
Additionally, there is a nice-weight, textured metal chain handle. Also, it opens to reveal three inner little open pockets and a green faille lining.
The original coin purse and mirror are also included with this beautiful bag. The seller affirms the purse to be in excellent condition; it appears to have never been carried. The outside and the lining inside are spotless; it has a value tag of $227.
Vintage Art Deco 1910 Rare Dance Purse
Next is this vintage art deco rare dance purse little wristlet with gold chains, pearls, and topaz.
It has powder and mirror dust inside and a distinctive aperture and chain link. But according to the seller, one little pearl gem is absent.
This 1910 gold plated portable wrist chain purse has topaz stones and a fancy tassel in place of pearls, and it fits any collection.
If you have one, it will make a wonderful, unique, and fantastic collectible compact! Also a beautiful museum item with a value of $299.
Sterling Victorian Bird Themed Coin Purse With Kiss Lock
This delicate vintage coin purse from the Victorian era is made from sterling silver.
The chainmail below the purse’s hinges has a few broken links, but their presence does not seem to detract from the item’s overall aesthetic appeal or usefulness.
According to the seller, this item has not been adequately cleaned to preserve its original antique integrity; however, it has been tested to ensure metal content. This purse goes for $349.99.
Chinese Silk Embroidered Gold Crane Purse
The Chinese designs are not left out of the expensive vintage purses. So let us look at this beautiful antique Chinese silk purse with embroidery from the 1920s, including floral details and crane birds. Decorated entirely in gold metallic thread, with traces of needlework in yellow, red, and black.
It has two top handles with silk cords and two little internal pockets inside the purse’s main, silk-lined section.
It consists of two ornate silk tassels, each of which is topped with what appear to be ivory beads that have been carved.
Rank badge purses are the name for this type of bag and are rare and valuable if you have one.
The most frequent handbag badges were those with cranes, which first-rank civil officials wore. The crane represents sagacity and knowledge.
This piece is on sale online at $350.
Vintage German Silver Mesh Coin Purse
Metal mesh purses were common in the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Some are far more valuable than others, and most are made of brass or other less expensive metals.
One of the most expensive types of bags is one made of a gold mesh. These are available in various colors, patterns, and designer names.
German silver was an alloy employed as a less expensive alternative to silver in the late 1800s. This alloy was used to create the antique coin purse, a stunning illustration of the time’s fashion.
The clasp is decorated with elaborate flower motifs and stretched forms, adding additional eye-catching embellishments like chains and beads. This old item is such a sweet little bit of history!
But to lay your hands on this piece of history, you will need $545.
Vintage Jewel Framed Purse
Metal frames are popular in antique handbags, and the frame’s craftsmanship and materials can significantly impact the purse’s worth. These might be jewelry-grade items of sterling silver, gold, and priceless stones.
For instance, a vintage purse with an emerald and diamond frame was sold at Christie’s in 2003 for more than $11,000.
You can also find a listing on eBay of a jewel-framed purse valued at $1,599.99.
Barry Kieselstein-Cord Cream Colored Leather Purse
The leather hanging purse by Barry Kieselstein-Cord features the Alligator logo on the front and the leather strap. The purse initially appeared in 1991, and this one is still in excellent condition, according to the seller, with a lovely cream color.
The charm and the gold-tone plaque are in flawless condition inside. It has an internal registration number and a zippered pocket with green suede lining. The handbag is in fantastic shape with no scratches on the back and no wear on the bag’s sides.
Rarely do leather straps without tote handles exist.
This maker was a pioneer in his field, showing the bag’s quality. The vintage bag holds a value as high as $1,900.
Nantucket Basket Purses
These adorable purses’ lids resemble baskets carved with sea creatures from the bone. Designers like Stephen Gibbs and José Formoso Reyes produced these in the 1950s and 1960s.
These pieces can sell for hundreds of dollars, but rare versions can go for even more; for instance, a vintage José Formoso Reyes Nantucket Lightship basket purse with a carved whale sold for $2,000 on eBay.
Another seller puts up a Nantucket purse for listing on eBay at $2,295
Micro-Beaded Victorian Art Purse
Thousands of tiny beads are used to form a pattern or even a whole scene on micro-beaded purses. Of course, the craftsmanship needed to create this kind of purse contributes to their value, and since they are uncommon, it can be challenging to locate one in good shape. But if you do, it can be pretty valuable.
The one shown in the picture above is a one-of-a-kind, functional beaded “Victorian” art purse. It has a classic Victorian German silver purse frame, and I made the purse by hand stitching and beading.
The purse is lined and has beading on both sides. Cell phones and other items you could carry fit within and are sturdy enough to hold them.
So as you know, beading takes a long time; it may have taken several hours of work to bead and make this purse. This piece sold for over $2,500 on eBay and currently costs up to $3,000 on Etsy.
How to Determine the Value of Your Vintage Purse
It may not be easy to recognize an antique or vintage purse correctly. Fortunately, many companies (particularly designer ones) have created guidelines for product identification.
So keep an eye on these brand compliance requirements. They can assist you in figuring out whether the handbag is genuine.
However, a vintage or antique purse’s brand and kind aren’t the only factors that can increase its value. To start a collection of vintage purses, you need to seek specific qualities in a vintage or antique purse.
First, check to see if the bags’ metal stamps and brand logo correspond to the company’s expectations. Holograms and logo fonts can also be indicators of genuineness.
For example, if you’re buying a Versace purse, the Versace logo should be on the bag and all the packaging materials.
Search for a distinct, clear emblem on all printed papers and the purse; look for etching rather than printing.
Also, It’s not surprising that many imitation designer handbags are available. But, unfortunately, some of those handbags might have undergone distressing or other alterations to make them appear old.
Look for the handbag’s evidence of origin to rule out a fake. It may be proof of purchase, the original box, the serial number, or an authenticity certificate.
Even better if the bag is shown with authentic extras like a leather name tag, a padlock with keys, or similar little pochette bags.
Factors Affecting the Value of a Vintage Purse
As it’s familiar with other vintage items, specific factors interfere with the value of vintage purses. So let’s look at a few factors in this section on how to know vintage purses are worth serious money.
Condition of the Purse
Some collectors would pay top dollar for sought-after purses that aren’t in excellent condition. However, a bag should be in excellent condition for its age if you want to earn more money.
Use-related flaws will diminish the value of the purse with flaws like scratches, stains, ink smudges, tears, and worn hardware. Also, a bag’s value may decrease as a result of odors.
It’s crucial to remember that vintage purses could have a patina or charm that develops with age. Damage is not the same as this.
Special Designs and Styles
The most valuable designs are typically those that make a distinctive style statement and are created by well-known designers or companies.
For example, vintage purses from top designers like whiting and Davies, Celiné, etc., fetch a reasonable price at auctions. Also, limited editions and unique designs like the gold mesh purse have a higher price at auction.
The Era that Produced the Purse
The era of a vintage purse determines its worth. For instance, a purse from the 1890s will have a higher value if it incorporates aspects of Art Nouveau design. On the other hand, a 1950s purse should also have that mid-century aesthetic.
Where to Buy Vintage Purses
The internet is the most common place to search for vintage purses. You can find a vast majority of vintage purses at online stores like eBay, Etsy, and 1stDibs.
Other avenues to explore include;
- Local antique shops
- Estate sales
- Flea markets
- And private collections
Once you begin collecting vintage and antique purses, you’ll probably come across many bags that catch your eye.
Hopefully, this article can guide you to your dream vintage bag to add value to your collection.
However, when you finally find one that you cannot resist purchasing and meets all the criteria of a vintage purse, give it a lovely home and make plans to cherish it for many years.