Your Guide to Buying a Chanel Bag
“Forget the stock market! Invest in Chanel” is an idiom I live by. Chanel bags retain their value incredibly well, since the brand notoriously raise the prices of their bags every 6-12 months, while largely keeping their designs the same. Unlike the stock market, you are guaranteed to get your money back if you sell your Chanel bag in the future. A bag that I purchased in 2015 is now worth over $600 dollars more than I paid and I have enjoyed it for 4 years. The initial price tag, however, can understandably feel daunting and knowing what to buy can be even more intimidating. You want to be sure you’re making a decision that you’ll be happy with long term, so below is a guide to help you navigate your first Chanel purchase.
To keep it simple, you are going to want to consider the following things before investing in a Chanel bag. Read on for more details on each.
Color and hardware
New vs. Consignment
CHANEL BAG STYLES
There are a few core Chanel styles. If you are looking for a bag that will be a long term, safe investment then you should go with a classic flap bag, but certainly there are other options you can explore whether that be a seasonal bag, Boy Bag, Wallet on Chain, or a Gabrielle bag.
These bags come in a variety of sizes from extra mini, mini square, small, medium, jumbo and maxi. The medium is the most popular size. Newer bags have a “double flap” which means there is a small flap inside the bag. Some prefer the single flap as it is a bit lighter, but others argue that the double flap helps keep the shape of the bag. I don’t think there is a right or wrong version to purchase.
This bag was released in 2005 by Karl Lagerfeld to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Coco Chanel’s first bag. The original debuted in February 1955; hence the name 2.55. The 2.55 features the original “mademoiselle lock”; the CC cross latch was actually not released until the 80s. Fun fact: the 2.55 has a hidden inner pocket, where Coco Chanel allegedly kept her love letters from her lover! The 2.55 is much more popular in Europe than it is in America, but I think it is a timeless bag that is discreet and chic.
Seasonal bags are fun and unique. These are bags that are released with each season, but most do not return the next season. The downside is resale is less reliable. The upside is you can have a bag that is much more rare and you’ll likely be the only one at the party with the bag a few years from now.
Chanel Boy Bag
When this bag originally came out I loved it. It is a more modern, street style take on the classic flap bag. Over time, it has lost its appeal for me. If you love it, don’t listen to me as there is still certainly a strong demand for the Boy bag.
Another newer introduction to the line. I am not crazy about this style. It could eventually become a classic, but it is impossible to look in the future to know.
Chanel Wallet On Chain
This is technically considered a “small leather good” (sometimes referred to as a SLG) but often used as a handbag. The demand is high as they are less expensive than the classic flaps.
Picking the type of leather that is the best fit for you and your lifestyle is important. Below are the common leathers you will come across: caviar and lambskin being the two most popular.
Pebbled appearance (hence the caviar name)
More durable than lambskin, as it can handle more wear and tear
Does not scratch as easily as lambskin leather
Less sensitive to water (though don’t take your caviar bag on a water slide)
The most popular leather
Very soft to touch
Slight gloss appearance
Fragile. Keep away from things that will dent or stain the leather
Sensitive to water and may stain
Pro tip: store the bag with the chains inside the bag to avoid scratches
Over time, the puffiness of the quilted lambskin can flatten
Basically, the diva of the family
This leather is used for the Reissue 2.55
Unpolished, so it will not be as shiny as a caviar
Similar durability to caviar
Purposefully meant to look vintage, as the 2.55 was brought back in 2005 by Karl Lagerfeld to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Coco Chanel’s original bag
Lighter patent leather will show dents and stains more easily
Stains on patent are difficult to remove
Dark fabrics can color transfer, so be careful with your brand new dark jeans
Not as popular of a leather when it comes to resale
mainly used on Chanel diamond quilted flap bags, Boy Bags, wallets, and small leather goods
Keep in mind that the metallic finish can rub off
Handle with care as stains, water marks etc. are difficult to reverse
New boy bags use calfskin
Chain lengths vary depending on the size and style of the Chanel bag. If it is important to have a bag that can be cross body, I recommend going into the store to figure out what bag works for your body. Some Chanel bags do not work as cross bodies for curvier ladies, so keep that in mind!
HARDWARE & COLOR
Color: Black is the most popular color for Chanel bags. If you are realistically only ever going to have one and or want to be able to easily resell the bag in the future, I recommend going with black. It’s foolproof. However, there are lots of beautiful colors to choose from. Be careful with lighter colors with color transfer!
Hardware: The typical hardware colors are silver and gold. The 2.55 has a typically has an all metal chain (no leather interwoven) with a brushed appearance. They also release a “so black” version of their bag occasionally where everything is jet black.
NEW OR CONSIGNMENT?
I am in full support of purchasing new or used Chanel bags; I have done both. Chanel bags go up in value about every 6-12 months, so no matter what you do the bag you buy today will be worth more down the road. That being said, buying second hand can make a Chanel bag much more attainable and depending on the bag you can save thousands of dollars. The only two sites I purchase from are Fashionphile and The RealReal. I am not endorsed by these sites, but these are the two sites I trust. Are there reputable sources outside of these to purchase? I am sure, but I stick to what I know as there are lots of fakes out there and I appreciate that both brands stand behind their authenticity.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Which would you recommend as a first and only Chanel? Which do you get the most use out of?
Black Caviar Medium Flap with silver or gold Hardware. It may be the “safe” option, but it is a classic bag that you can always resell should you need extra money or change your mind down the road.
Style that holds its value?
I would recommend the Chanel 2.55 or the Chanel Classic Flap in any of the sizes.
Caviar vs. Lamb?
Lambskin and caviar are the two common leathers. Lambskin is gorgeous, but it is more delicate. Depending on your temperament, you may get upset if you scratch your lambskin Chanel bag. If you will realistically only ever have one single Chanel bag and or you tend to be clumsy, caviar is a safer bet.
How do you know you’re getting a good price?
It depends on the bag, as some brand new bags resell for more than retail, if they’re so popular they are impossible to locate in store. I would say anywhere from 20-30% or more off is a fairly good deal. Again, prices vary depending on the bag, color, leather etc. but that is a good range to start. In general, the price of Chanel will only continue to go up. If you can afford to buy the bag now then I would recommend buying it; it will only continue to go up in value and you’ll be kicking yourself later when it’s several hundred, if not thousands, more. On that note- never buy a Chanel bag if you cannot afford it. Wait until you can. Chanel makes beautiful bags, but going in debt for a bag, no matter what it looks like, is never worth it!
That is a subjective. For me, my favorite bag I own is the mini square. It is roomy enough for your phone, keys, chapstick or lipgloss, and card wallet It is great for day, but also doesn’t look like a big, silly bag for evening. My first Chanel bag was my wallet on chain. I have to say it is really small. If you can save a little bit more, I would size up a little bit, especially if you’re looking to wear the bag other than as an evening bag.
Single or Double Flap- which do you like best?
I don’t have a preference.
What style shows least wear?
In general, I find a crossbody bag wears best as it spends less time on the floor. If you’re going to invest in a nice bag, don’t treat it like a $10 bag from Target. Don’t overstuff the bag. Don’t take it to a crowded, frat bar where you’ll have beer spilled on it. Don’t cram it in your closet under 10 different bags. Store your bag out of direct sunlight and treat it with care and you’ll have it for decades.
What size is perfect for a crossbody to carry phone and wallet? Not too big or small?
I like the mini square, mini classic flap, or the small classic flap.
How can you restore a lambskin quilted bag that is a little loved and needs refreshing?
I have a guide with many cobbler recommendations here.
Do some hold up better over time?
How you treat the bag will be a factor, but overall caviar is the most durable leather.
How can you be sure it’s authentic?
Authenticity is a difficult game, as fakes get more and more sophisticated. There is always an inherent risk when you buy second hand, but I recommend using a trusted source, whether that is online or a consignment store you trust. I would not buy from an individual unless you really trust that person to be honest and trustworthy. In general, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. I also recommend taking a look at the quality of the bag. Chanel quilted bags should line up evenly and the quality of the materials should be very high.
A T&T follower who works for Chanel also added, “my number one recommendation would be to pay attention to the basics. I can’t even tell you how many times people come in with a bag and at first glance it might look good, but the indications are usually the size of the clasp, or the length of the leather on the strap (for a boy bag). These are things Chanel tends to keep the same size all the time, so it is an immediate red flag.”
Are larger sizes heavier?
Yes, they have more leather.
Should we buy the trendy Chanel bags or just the flap bag?
If you will only ever have one bag, I would go traditional. If you are a really eccentric, funky person and that sounds insanely boring, then go with a fun fabric or color. Just know your chances of getting sick of it may be higher and it will be harder to resell as most people go traditional. If you have several Chanel bags, then sure, go crazy and get some funky colors and styles. Just keep in mind that the trendy, seasonal bags may eventually go out of style.
Which style has the highest resale value?
Classic flaps or 2.55
Would you buy without a box?
Having a “full set” (box, dust bag) is ideal for resale but not essential. I have purchased three Chanel bags without them and figure others will do the same from me if I ever want to resell.
Would you buy without a serial number?
Would you buy without an authentication card?
I have, but I purchased the bag from a trusted source.
How do you inspect for signs of wear?
Look at the corners of the bag. Are the straps very worn out? Is there tarnishing on the metal? If it’s a wallet, see if the slots are stretched out. Does it smell like it comes from a home with animals, smoke, mold etc.?
Top 3 must own Chanel bags-- one crazy, one black one evening?
That is a very hard question! I will give you my boring point of view. My personal three picks would be the Mini Square, Reissue, and a funky exotic color.
The proper way to carry a Gabrielle?
However you want to!
What Chanel bag is too trendy that you wouldn’t buy?
Boy bags. I almost bought my wallet on chain in the boy bag version in 2015 and am so thankful I did not. At the time, I liked that it was a bit more edgy, but over the last few years I have seen one too many Real Housewives of Orange Country cast members with the bag. It has kind of killed them for me. Eventually I think they’ll be phased out.
I saw a Camel Chanel bag on Ebay with a pen mark- any hope of cleaning it off?
Hmmm. Unless you’re getting a truly screaming deal and it is not that noticeable, I would pass. You could take a picture to a cobbler before you buy and get a professional opinion, but it seems like too much money to spend for a damaged bag. Better to continue to save up and get a bag that is perfect.
Easy and inexpensive repairs possible to make a non-perfect bag perfect? What is a red flag in terms of damage?
I do not profess to be a bag repair expert. For all bags, I would check with a cobbler you trust or speak with a sales associate at Chanel to see if they can repair before buying any damaged bag.
What actually fits in the wallet on chain (WOC)?
NOT MUCH! Card wallet, small set of keys, lip gloss. I know the WOC is meant to be used as a wallet and has slots for cards but I never used it that way. So I suppose if you used it sans card wallet you’d get a bit more room. It’s ideal for evening.
What styles are usually a better deal?
Older styles that are no longer sold in store tend to be more affordable. You’ll pay less too if the bag is not leather typically.
Do you shop on The Real Real? Not great pics and no returns on bags!
I do. My mini square is from The Real Real. I had a good experience buying from them. I also had an issue where the strap broke unexpectedly about 9 months later and they offered to either refund me entirely or pay for the repair. Chanel thankfully fixed the bag for free but I was impressed by their customer service. If you’re nervous about the final sale I would recommend either doing your research ahead of time so you’re absolutely certain or shopping in one of their New York or LA stores so you can find a bag in person.
Have you had any Chanel regrets?
That’s an oxymoron! The beauty of Chanel is you can always resell. If you want to sell immediately after purchasing, you may not break even, but if you can wait even 6 months to a year (the longer the better) you will be able to recoup your costs.