Through headlines and celebrity sightings, nearly everyone has become familiar with that most-unattainable of Hermes bags: The Himalayan. You’ve likely read something about how the gray-to-white ombre is meant to evoke the majestic Himalayan mountain range (which is true), or about how it’s made from rare Himalayan crocodile (which is not true, there are no crocodiles in the Himalayas). Much has been said about these elusive ‘Holy Grail’ handbags, and many people have one at the top of their wishlist.
The true history of the Himalayan starts way back in the early days of handbags, when exotic crocodile skins were generally not died with intense colors, black or dark brown if anything. Many early bags were treated so as to allow natural hues to show through, which most often are lighter in the center scales and darker on the sides. This original “himalayan” crocodile (though it would never have been called that) went out of style as dying techniques improved, but the idea remained in the heads of Hermes’ master craftsmen for generations. In the early 1990’s a renaissance for Hermes handbags was in full swing. The house tanneries were hard at work perfecting a glossy ombre crocodile skin that would harken back to it’s naturally hued ancestors, it would be later named Natura Vert Celadon Alligator and would go on to form many sizes of the iconic Kelly bag. Later it would be realised as the seed of the modern day Hermes Himalayan.
The earliest of these Natura Himas were produced in 1994, with the final examples leaving the atelier in 2007. The next iteration would soon follow, with 30cm Matte Nilo crocodile Birkins first finding their way into the world in 2008. These first proper Himalayan Birkins were a bit more gravely with more hints of brown than the newest white and gray Himalayans we see being produced today. The general public first got a glimpse of this newest version on the spring 2010 runway, and demand skyrocketed from there. In the decade following, Hermes has produced Himalayn bags in three sizes of Birkins and three sizes of Kellys, as well as a few specially ordered examples of Kelly Longues, Pochettes, Plumes, Constances, Lindys, and Roulis, and maybe more we’ve yet to behold.
Throughout the decade or so auction houses have been offering Hermes bags, Himalayans have been the standard auction-makers, the typical top lot that crowns whatever selection is being offered. More recently auction houses have taken the bold step of offering multiple Himas (always in different sizes or styles, of course) in the same auction, the increasingly strong results for which are further proof of the insatiable demand for these bags. The average price for Himalayans at auction increases an average of ten percent annually. In 2014, the first year multiple Himas were offered at auction, the average price for one was $100,000, in 2019 that average had climbed to $152,000. The highest selling Himalayans are 25cm Kellys, which average $131,000 at auction, but broke records this past year when one sold for a whopping $240,000. 28cm Kellys consistently sell the highest, averaging $147,000, though they are also among the rarest, with only six examples ever crossing the block (five 32cm Kellys and seven 25cm Kelly’s have been sold). Himalayan Kellys are overall more valuable than Birkins, the 32cm Kelly, arguably the rarest, completes that picture averaging $130,000. Only eighteen Himalayn Kellys have ever been sold at auction. Three times more Himalayan Birkins have sold, with the overall average price, $113,000, coming up substantially short of the Kelly’s $136,000 auction average. Unlike the Kellys, the most valuable Himalayan Birkins are the biggest ones, the 35s, which average $131,000 at auction, with one selling for $207,000 this past year. The 25cm Birkins beat out their 30cm sisters averaging $113,000 (though a few sold in 2019 averaging $156,000). The 30cm Birkins, of which, ironically, 30 have sold at auction (over forty percent of all himas sold at auction are 30cm Birkins), average $109,000 at auction, though that average for 2019 jumped to $132,000 across the seven that crossed the block that year.
While many people see Himas as the rarest and most coveted bags in the world, there are Himas out there that are extra special. Gris Cendre Himalayans are super rare bags that ombre from gray in the center to darker gray on the sides, and feature a Fauve brown interior, making the whole bag more earthy and a bit more subtle. These come up for auction extremely rarely, only four have ever been sold at auction, and Gris Cendre Hima Kellys are even harder to find than the Birkins. At the very top of the handbag spectrum are Diamond Himalayans, which have been produced in all the sizes of Birkins and Kellys as regular himalayans (Diamond Gris Cendre Himas exist, too, but don’t hold your breath for one). Ten diamond Himas have been sold at auction, all of them Birkins, with an average price of around $275,000. The record for these bags (and all bags at auction) was set in 2017 just above $380,000, though privately they have been known to sell for more.