The bag quickly became a symbol of wealth and exclusivity due to its high price and assumed long waiting lists. Birkins are a popular item with handbag collectors and were once seen as the rarest handbag in the world. In 2020, prices started at US$11,000 for regular leather. The price reached US$380,000 (HK$2.94 million) when a bag made of exotic skin and diamond was sold at auction by Christie’s in Hong Kong for a record price in May 2017.
The bag also comes in a variety of hides such as calf leather, lizard, and ostrich. Among the most expensive used-to-be, saltwater crocodile skin and bags with smaller scales cost more than those with larger scales. Each bag is lined with goat skin, the color of the interior matching the exterior. Prices for the Birkin bag depend on the type of skin, the color, and the hardware fixtures. Sizes range from 25-, 30-, 35-, to 40-centimeters, with traveling bags of 50- and 55-centimeters. It also comes in a variety of colors such as black, brown, golden tan, navy blue, olive green, orange, pink, powder blue, red, and white.
The bag has a lock and keys. The keys are enclosed in a leather lanyard known as a clochette, carried by looping it through a handle. The bag is locked by closing the top flaps over buckle loops, wrapping the buckle straps, or closing the lock on the front hardware. Locks and keys are number-coded. Early locks only bore one number on the bottom of the lock. In more recent years, Hermès has added a second number under the Hermès stamp of the lock. The numbers for locks may be the same for hundreds of locks, as they are batch numbers in which the locks were made. The metallic hardware (the lock, keys, buckle hardware, and base studs) are plated with gold or palladium. Detailing with diamonds is another custom option.
Hermès offers a “spa treatment,” which is a reconditioning treatment for heavily-used bags. A “Shooting Star” Birkin has a metallic image resembling a shooting star, stamped adjacent to the “Hermès, Paris Made in France” stamp, which is in gold or silver to match the hardware and embossing. Rarely, the stamp is blind or colorless, if the bag is made of one or two leathers onto which no metallic stamping is used. Sometimes, Birkins or other Hermès bags may be made by independent artisans for “personal use”, but only once a year. Every bag bears the stamp of the artisan who made the bag. These identifications vary widely but are not different for every bag made.
The Birkin bag may be distinguished from the similar Hermès Kelly bag by the number of its handles. The single-handle handbag is the Kelly, but the Birkin has two handles.