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Forget Real Estate, Last Year You Should Have Been Buying Luxury Handbags

Hermes' Birkin bag is one of the most highly coveted handbags among collectors.

When it comes to where to put your money in times of economic and political uncertainty, perhaps you have been thinking about it in the wrong way. Maybe you should be thinking less about industrial versus office versus residential. Maybe you should be thinking about accessorizing.

According to Knight Frank’s latest Wealth Report, the value of collectable handbags rose 13% in 2019, making it the top performing category in the company’s luxury investment index. That compares to a 1.8% rise in its index of prime residential property around the globe. The index is calculated using a sample of goods in each luxury category.

Rare stamps were the second-best performing category, rising 6%, while art and rare whisky rose 5% in value. 

The worst performing categories were jewellery and cars, which both dropped 7% in value last year. 

On a five-year basis, however, cars were the second-best performing category, having risen 190%. The best-performing sector was rare whisky, which has risen 564% in value. The worst-performing sector was rare furniture, which has dropped 27% in value in the past five years.

“As with other investments of passion like rare whisky, whose value has risen sharply in recent years, handbags are increasingly being seen as an investment class in their own right, as well as highly desirable fashion accessories,” Knight Frank Wealth Report Editor Andrew Shirley said. “Collectors are prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the rarest or most desirable bags.”

On the property side, the best performing city for prime residential property last year was Frankfurt, where prices rose 10% in 2019. Other top performers were Lisbon, Taipei, Seoul and Houston. The worst performers were Rome, Lake Como, Lucca and Venice, although all of the cities in Knight Frank’s index saw values rise. 

A survey of 620 wealth managers also found that rich investors are indeed changing their investment strategies as a result of political and economic uncertainty, selling out of liquid assets like stocks and bonds and moving more of their money into alternatives. Of the wealth managers surveyed, 43% said their clients wanted to invest more in real estate, a similar amount as were looking to put more into private equity, cash and gold.