Posh Pawn’s Claudia Valentin, Queen of the Handbags

A handbag? Lady Bracknell might have been puzzled, but Posh Pawn star Claudia Valentin knows what they’re worth and how to get them

A Handbag isn’t merely an accessory or even a basic. To most women, it’s an absolute necessity – an extension of herself, a central hub to her working day, or a statement piece when she’s out socialising.

Like shoes, a bag says a lot about its owner. A well-chosen one can get a woman through a lifetime of wardrobe crises, and for the savvy shopper, it can even offer a financial return when it’s time to say goodbye.

But, as anyone who has tried to buy an Hermès Birkin in-store will testify, unless you’re a Beckham, a Kardashian, or part of the Hollywood glitterati, trying to source some of the most in demand bags can be nigh on impossible. Cue Claudia Valentin, who’s made a career out of sourcing and restoring premium handbags.

With a collection of hundreds of bags from all over the world, she doesn’t have a walk-in wardrobe, she has what she describes as her own walk-in bagrobe.

“I look at all my beautiful bags as works of art,” she says. “Each has its own story, and while most are sentimentally priceless to me, I do have some that are purely investment pieces. “Handbags are serious collectors’ items than can net investors tens of thousands of pounds.”

As one of the world’s leading authorities on arm accessories, Claudia can boast an enviable celebrity clientele, but her own journey began with a bag presented to her at a very early age.

“I will always remember getting my first bag,” she says. “I was only four years old and it was in tan leather with beautiful handpainted flowers on it.

“My Aunt bought it from Sicily, and I can still recall its gorgeous leathery smell to this day! I loved that bag so much that I actually slept with it.” You could say the bag bug had well and truly bitten.

“The first bag I ever bought for myself was a tan Ted Baker bag which cost £80 from Fenwick’s. I was 14, working part-time in a hairdressers, and I remember feeling so proud and grown up that I earned that money. That bag made me feel amazing, like Joan Collins from Dynasty, but without the shoulder pads. From there, I kept on saving, and by the time I was 18 I had more than £14,000. That’s when my handbag collecting really kicked in. I still get the same buzz from buying or sourcing a new or rare handbag for myself, or for a client.”

Fast-forward to today, and Claudia can be found in the offices of Prestige Pawnbrokers in Hatton Garden alongside company owner James Constantinou. They’re a formidable team who source luxury items for wealthy clients, and their extraordinary lives have been documented on Channel 4’s hugely popular factual entertainment show, Posh Pawn.

Claudia is surrounded by dozens of highly collectable designer handbags that look like they belong in Kate Moss’s wardrobe. There’s classic Chanel, of course, as well as Prada, Gucci, and the aforementioned Holy Grail of bags, the Hermès Birkin.

“The huge demand for an original Hermes means it can be almost impossible to buy certain styles, colours and sizes in-store,” says Claudia. “There’s often a waiting list of several years. The retail cost of an original can be as much as £65,000 but, with a few carefully placed calls, I have sourced rare bags for as little as £6,500.

“Hermes are all handmade and can take one individual two to three weeks to make, so the quality is such that the bags will retain their value.”

Hermes isn’t the only handbag manufacturer with a demand that outstrips supply.

“We have the same demand for the classic jumbo Chanel handbag with a retail value of £4,500. Chanel only releases so many bags on a weekly basis. At Prestige, I’ve managed to source an immaculate one for as little as £2,500. These bags don’t lose their value, they become heirlooms, and because of how classic they are they become timeless pieces in a woman’s collection.”

While classic bags refuse to date, if you like yours more on trend, then fashion bags from Prada, YSL and Gucci can also be sound investments.

“The value isn’t quite as high, as they are more likely to date,” says Claudia. “But when they first come out they’re in high demand, so they’re a good choice for someone looking to recycle their collection quickly.”

She sounds a note of caution. “Once you’ve invested, feel free to show off your new purchase, but treat it with care if you want to retain its value. The handbag needs to be in very good condition with all its original packaging. It should have no scuffs, still be in good shape, and the colour of the hardware must be intact.”

When it comes to colour, a handbag’s hue can make all the difference. “In my experience, the specific colours to avoid are fashion colours which can be seasonal. Always invest in black and classic colours as these will never date.”

If you’re wondering if the bag bubble will burst post-Brexit, Claudia says she has evidence to the contrary: some bags have increased in value more than gold over the past few years, but you have to get in quickly.”

“The demand’s there and we feed it,” she says. “Our online store was virtually crashing in the lead-up to Christmas, and no sooner had we uploaded a bag than it sold in seconds. We expected things to slow down, but I’m just as busy.”

Top ten handbags of all time by Claudia Valentin

CLAUDIA’S TOP 5 HANDBAGS OF ALL TIME

  • Hermes Birkin – Estimated retail value (new) between £7,500 and up to £100,000, depending on the size and skin quality.
  • Hermes Kelly – Named after Grace Kelly, and another absolute classic. Almost impossible to buy new, but with a retail value again between £7,500 and £65,000 depending on the size and material.
  • Chanel Classic Jumbo 2.55 – This is the classic original style which is most sought-after, with a rectangular clasp and single opening strap. The cost new is approximately £4,500.
  • Chanel Classic Timeless – Designed by Karl Lagerfield, this bag comes with a double flap and the classic two C’s entwined with a leather and silver strap. The cost new is approximately £4,500.
  • Dior, Lady Dior – This bag, again, is wanted by many. It comes in a range of materials including lambskin and python. The little shopper, as it’s known, also features little Dior charms. Depending on size and material, can range from £3,500 to £15k.

To contact Claudia Valentin, visit: www.prestigepawnbrokers.co.uk

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