Trying to keep my paddle down at the annual vintage Hermes auction in Paris

The vintage raspberry Birkin bag is the second one from the left on the top shelf. Valued at 4,500-5,000 Euros,
 I'm curious to see how much bidders will be willing to pay to avoid the normal two year waiting
time for one of these coveted bags that start at 7,000 Euros.

Vingt, quarante, soixante...Excuse me, I'm just reviewing French numbers in preparation for the annual vintage Hermes auction at Hôtel Marcel Dassault this morning. After getting a sneak peak at the leather goods, fashion accessories and jewellery on Saturday afternoon, I registered for my auction paddle and am all set to go. The only problem is that it's difficult for me to understand rapid-fire numbers in French, so I could easily end up bidding on the raspberry Birkin bag thinking that it's a fantastic deal at 80 Euros only to discover that it's actually 9,380 Euros.

Even though I learned the correct way to count in French when I was in school, I'm far more comfortable with the sensible approach used by the inhabitants of the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland. Rather than using a convoluted system that involves addition and multiplication to form the numbers after sixty-nine, the Vaudois just carry on with septante for seventy, huitante for eighty and nonante for ninety. It's so easy!

But since I'll certainly feel like a deer caught in the headlights of a Hummer as the auctioneer rattles off numbers in proper French this morning, I'm going to have to focus all of my attention on the important matters at hand, like keeping my auction paddle securely on my lap until they get to lot number 82--let's see - that's quatre-vingts-deux (literally four-twenties-two). It's a vintage Hermes scarf and one of the few items that I may be able to afford. Wish me luck. I'm stepping way out of my comfort zone but decided that this is a Parisian experience that I shouldn't miss.

The proceeds from the sale of lot number 730, a crocodile valet tray in the shape of an airplane, will go to the Fondation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to help fight against illiteracy. If it's an item that you must have, register and submit an online bid.

Update: As the price of all items was listed in several currencies (Euros, dollars, pounds, Swiss francs, Japanese yen and Chinese yuan) on an electronic board during the auction, my fear of not understanding the sale price of an item was unjustified.

Hermes Vintage
Hotel Marcel Dassualt
7, Rond-Point des Champs-Elysees,
75008 Paris


  1. Bon chance!

    I regret missing a collection of three Hermes scarves at auction two years ago, the collection included the commemorative scarf for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II--oh man, how I wanted that. Here in Chicago the scarves sell at auction for around $200.00-$250.00 each. I hope they stay in that range for you.

    And I never knew about the alternative ways of counting 70, 80 and 90. Good to know. My numbers en francaise are terrible. Who am I kidding, all my French is bad now.

    Auctions are so much fun.

  2. You're braver than I am, the hustle and bustle of auctions is a bit too much for me. Good luck, though!

  3. They do the "septante..huitante" thing in Belgium, too (at least in Brussels)

  4. Hmmm,vintage raspberry Birkin bag, a scarf and those red boots would go well with my scrubs....but I would default on the mortgage!! Good luck getting your hands on whatever you want!

  5. @Bigfish, then that explains why the French count as they do.

  6. I think you're very brave! I've only ever been to one auction and that was with my mum to get a Christmas turkey at a farm one year.
    And I struggle with French numbers too after sixty. It really is a perplexing system that's evolved from the ancient Gaulish method of counting which was in base twenty (used fingers and toes), or so I believe.

  7. Joseph, Based on what I saw yesterday, I can imagine that the price of the QE II commemorative scarf went up at a dizzying speed. The commemorative items seemed to be going at about twice their value. The scarves were selling between $180-$675. What was interesting is that some of the scarves started out at a high price because someone had placed a high opening bid that no one in the room wanted to match.

    Number 82 (the one I was interested in) sold for 180 Euros ($242) before I knew it. My limit was 150 Euros. Oh, well. - it was more the experience that I was going for.

    Bridget, Anyone who bakes hundreds of cupcakes for their labmate's wedding is brave in my book! But it's best to start off small. I used to go to small auctions in Switzerland so I've been working my way up. I took lots of notes (as did everyone around me) of the selling prices so that I have a better idea for next time. Some of the jewellery, purses, shawls, coats and shoes went for less than their estimated value.

    Bigfish, It makes you wonder why the French don't adopt the Belgian and Swiss way of counting - not that I could ever imagine that happening! ;-)
    Thanks for commenting-it's helpful to know how things are done in Brussels.

    Nancyb, But you would be one fashionable homeless person! But in all honesty, there's no way that I could spend that much money on a purse. My mind converts everything into how many trips I could take with X amount. One of the Birkin bags sold for $10,800. Just think how many trips I could make to Boston with that money!

    Steph, I've been to some livestock auctions and they're much more difficult to follow than the Hermes auction. We went to an Amish horse auction once and I couldn't follow the bids and who was bidding. So now I'm wondering what you did with your Christmas turkey (presumably live) once you bought it. It's good to know that I'm not alone in struggling with French numbers...maybe it would help if I start using my fingers and toes!

  8. Where do these items come from, and are they new? I am intrigued. A friend of mine finds old Hermes ties and scarves at the Saturday morning flea market at Porte de Vanves, but I'm sure they are not as nice as these things.

  9. Kate, They were all vintage items. Like you, I was wondering where they came from. At first, I thought that all of the items were donated to raise money for Carla Bruni's foundation, but then I realized that wasn't the case. So, I'm not sure. Almost all of the items were in really good shape and some of them were "like new" with their original Hermes' boxes.

    I almost bought what appeared to be an Hermes scarf at one of the Vide Greniers. After regretting that I missed my opportunity, the woman who was selling it told me that it wasn't a real Hermes. That's great that your friend has found a place to buy them at an affordable price.

  10. Mary Kay, there are some scarves coming up at the auction house here in Chicago, one very nice one which commemorates the gift of the Statue of Liberty to the US. Follow the link in my new blog entry to the couture sale on Tuesday and search for the scarves. I forget the lot numbers, but you can bid online!

  11. lot 401, they don't show a full picture of it, maybe you can google it, or I'll try to get a picture this weekend.

  12. Thanks for the heads up, Joseph. I'm heading over to your blog right now!