Everything practical you need to know about the vintage Hermes Kelly bags: Part 1

Everything practical you need to know about the vintage Hermes Kelly bags: Part 1

It has been a while! Time for us to share what we know as we don’t do gatekeeping!

I take my title as Queen of Vintage very seriously and there is a lot of information out there on vintage Hermes Kelly bags but let’s see if we can bring something new to the table here! 

I wanted to cover something more practical in this blog post. History is wonderful for backstory/context but ultimately I'm not a history professor, I am a vintage bag dealer.

Remember MGFT operates under our definition of vintage being AT LEAST 20 years or older (i.e. for Hermes that is G square stamp or earlier) so what we consider as vintage can be different from others in the industry. As always, comments here represent my own and presented to the best of my knowledge. 

What sizes are the vintage Kelly bags?





Fits an iphone pro max (at time of writing)


Least rare









K28 w/shoulder strap

Rare w/ three common iterations of hardware: lobster clasps, double D rings (rare in vintage), or “classic”




K20 w/ fixed shoulder strap

Very rare



Tight, do not recommend

K20 w/bracelet handle

Extremely rare (with retourne styles being exceedingly rare)



Tight, do not recommend

K15 (thin straps)

Most rare




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 Do K25s exist in the vintage world? This is highly debatable. Theoretically they’ve been produced in the same time period (although in VERY VERY limited quantities in the same time period though I have not personally seen one.

Pictured here is a very old K25 and a vintage K20, you can see the size is actually quite significant between the two. 




Vintage Kelly bags come in both Sellier (outer stitching) and Retourne (inner stitching). The easiest way to tell is to look at the edges - if you can see the actual stitches it is a Sellier style, if you can’t see the stitches, it is retourne stitching. 

Vintage hermes kelly

Both Sellier and Retourne styles were made during the period we’re covering but because Sellier styles tend to stay in better condition over time, they tend to cost more (nothing to do with style preference, just more of condition).

Sellier style Kelly bags look more formal and more structured and “boxy”. Retourne bags look more casual and are more slouchy, but both will fit the same amount. For myself, I prefer the retourne style because I don’t like bags that look too formal! 

the mini vintage Kelly bags, such as K20 with the bracelet handle are mostly made in sellier styles and only very rarely are they in a retourne style.  


Leather and “heritage leathers”

Vintage hermes kelly Vintage hermes kelly

The most common leather used in the vintage Kelly bag is box (veau) leather. Box is shiny soft, supple leather still used today by the maison and it is leather that you can easily get rebuffed or polished. It is an amazing leather choice because it looks absolutely magnificent and lustrous in its natural leather state. Box leather is most often used in dark colored Kelly bags, such as black and Rouge H. It is rare to find box vintage Kelly bags in lighter colors such as natural or gold. Vintage box leather is actually much shinier and glossier than the new box leathers but also crack more at the folds. Over time, box leather in general can crack among the folds so it's always important to check this area carefully. 

Vintage hermes kelly

The second most common leather used on the vintage Kelly would be courchevel (considered Epsom's predecessor) and like Epsom, it is large grained and very robust. Courchevel leather is considered a heritage leather because it is no longer used by the maison. If you try to get a replacement strap in Courcheval you will most likely get one made in Epsom instead. I personally love this leather because it is lightweight and repels water very well. You can find courchevel most commonly in the colors gold and black.


Vintage hermes kelly

The third most common leather used in the vintage Kelly is Ardennes (a predecessor of Togo), with similarly even bigger grains but DOES NOT VEIN! Yes, that’s right, Ardenne leather actually rarely ever “veins” the way Togo leather does. Ardennes is much shinier as it is not treated in the same way Togo so you'll see a lovely sheen to it. Need I say more as to which I prefer? It is probably the heaviest of the three common vintage leathers but equally as durable as Courchevel and looks amazing in the Kelly bag silhouette. 

Other common leathers you can find on the vintage Kelly include Barenia (the original one, not Barenia Faubourg) and Toile Canvas (always used in conjunction with another material on bi-colored vintage Kelly bags).

Do I need a strap with a vintage Kelly bag?

Vintage hermes kelly

This is a very common question I get asked and the answer is that it depends. If you like to hold your bags or wear it on your arm, then you probably don’t need one BUT the Kelly bags are unlike the Birkins where you can just slip your hand in to open them. They do need two hands to access so that’s why Kelly bags work MUCH better with a strap. 








Is the strap worth the extra price? Can I get my own strap made? 

In the earliest rendition of the Kelly bag, they were made without straps and those were made in sufficient quantities that they float around a lot in the secondary market today. You’ll see more of the older Kelly bags without straps and those far outweigh the Kelly bags with straps and also why the ones with a strap cost much more. 

The reason straps are so expensive is because if you’re vintage Kelly bag is made using a heritage leather (i.e. a leather that isn’t used by the maison anymore such as courcheval) it is impossible to get a strap made by the maison. 

Even if your Kelly bag is made using a leather still produced by the maison today, it can take a long time to make and they’re very costly to do so (not to mention the time, angst, wait that it takes to get one made) - there’s also something iffy I find about getting something first hand and newly made and matching it to a piece so rich in history like a vintage Kelly bag. 

Just a note that NONE of these straps (if they are actually original) can be worn crossbody. All bags during this period were most commonly worn on the shoulder!


What do I collect?

If I am to be very honest, I prefer black box in the smaller vintage Kelly bag styles. I have previously owned a black box K28 with a lobster clasp and I barely used it. However, in my current collection, I love my K20 with the long handle. 

 Is a vintage Kelly bag right for me?

The vintage Kelly bags are great value however because you don’t need to buy a ton of crap from the Maison to get one, they’re usually lower in price point than others on the market and you basically can shop used adding to circularity.

However, colors are limited to mostly neutrals and to certain sizes! For example, what many people consider to be a classic color, Etoupe, is NOT found in the vintage Kelly bag range, so this is where it wouldn’t be appropriate to keep going down the vintage route. 

Stay tuned for part 2 where I go in depth with a user review of my vintage K20. 

Questions/comments/things to share - leave a comment below to help the community! Otherwise, see you on insta for some beautiful vintage superstars!

May you and your bags continue in good health. 






I have my mother’s black Kelly handbag probably about 60 years old. How much should I sell it for, it’s in great condition.

Patricia Erskine

Great article. How old is to old to invest ?


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