Vintage fashion has been a growing area of collecting for the past 40 years. Back then it was considered just wearing some old clothes by some, but has since grown into a large and respectable resale industry. But, a lot of the clothing that survives today is too small for many modern shoppers owing not only to changing sizes, but to the aspirational clothing that sat in the back of the closet and made it to the vintage shop in one piece. Not to mention that age can have drastic effects on clothing. But, one thing that holds up well and fits all sizes are handbags. In the realm of women’s clothing vintage purses have become huge sellers and tend to have many more years of wear left in them. Even handbags that were once very economical back in the day can now sell for steep prices. So, without further ado here are 7 vintage purse styles that are insanely collectible today.

2 women making straw purses, 1941
Via: Jack Delano/ Library of Congress

Telephone Purses

During World War II leather was being used in the war effort for military items and so the market in general suffered from shortages. But, despite the fact that leather was rationed many types of clothing and accessories were not rationed in the US, which relied on strong campaigns against wastage instead of hardline rationing. The telephone cord purse was, for a short time, the colorful alternative to leather handbags. If one had to buy new, it could have been one of these primary-colored bags.

Today, these bags usually sell for between $50 and $200 or more depending on color scheme and condition. These were only in production for a very limited period, so they are a precious commodity.

telephone cord purse in bright colors
Via: 247hockeymom /eBay

Acrylic Purses

These bags are some of the most sought after in the vintage collecting world. These flashy handbags were once perfect for a night out on the town. They could be clear, marbled, or with glitter suspended in the acrylic. Often times an intaglio design of flowers would also be present on these purses.

They are easily cracked, clouded, scratched, or yellowed. In particular the handles are usually the first things to break. Because of this fragility finding one that’s mint can be quite unusual and when you do you’ll probably pay upwards of $100, though they can sometimes cost more. Acrylic bags with lots of wear or broken parts can sell for a lot less at $30 or $40. We’ve also seen rare ones priced at more than $300 so the value is all over the place.

woman holding an acrylic handbag, 1950
Via: Bert Morgan/ State Archives of Florida

Enid Collins Purses

Enid Collins was one of the most creative and original designers of handbags in the 20th century. However, her unique, handmade style was widely copied during the 1960s and 1970s when the DIY look was so popular in fashion.

Her cigar box purses were hand-painted in funky designs and then adorned with large rhinestone jewels. Unlike some other styles of vintage handbags, these babies usually hold up very well over time. Expect to pay $50-$150 for an Enid Collins purse.

Enid Collins purse
Via: Denna Jones/ Flickr

Antique Reticules

There are many items of antique clothing which are not all that highly valued. Antique gloves, for instance, are often far too small to be worn today. But, reticules can be worn or displayed easily. At the beginning of the 19th century women were adjusting to the new, slim lines of the Empire dresses, which allowed no space for the precious tie-on pocket that women had been using for centuries. The compromise was to carry a bag separately. These small bags were known as reticules when they came out and as late at the 1910s that’s what many people still called them.

In the days before mass production these small bags could be made from silk moiré, velvet, carefully beaded or embroidered fabrics, or even chainmaille. The designs vary wildly as can the prices. We’ve seen them priced at $350, but less desirable reticules can be as little as $20 or $30.

antique reticule purse form the early 1800s
Via: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vintage Tooled Leather Bags

Along with the Good Neighbor policy that influenced fashion trends of Mexico and South America in the 1940s. Then in the 1950s the Western look ensured that these bags remained in the public eye. By the 1970s these sturdy bags were part of the natural look which embraced earthtones and rustic looks. Today these bags can sell for quite a bit, as hand tooled items represent a steep investment of labor. The bag below sold for $350, but most sell for between $30 and $100.

vintage tooled leather bag
Via: juniebtreasures2/ eBay

Cordé Bags

Another type of bag from the Depression and WWII eras is the Corde bag (pronounced cord-day). These durable bags are embroidered by machine in flat patterns which adhere cording to the base fabric. Sometimes this same top cording was used to crochet a design. These bags often hold up very well over time. While they were popular as early as the 1920s, they were really the trendiest during the 1930s and 1940s. Cordé was the main brand, but competitors cashed in on the name with brands like Korday also making appearances.

Today deals on Cordé style bags can be had at only $15 or so, but can sell for as high as $60 or so.

korday handbag card

Bakelite Handle bags

Just like anything else Bakelite -from drills to crib toys to buttons and bangles- bags with Bakelite handles are now extremely coveted in the vintage market. Prices on these babies can range from $30 -$300 depending on style and condition. Some sellers will label any plastic handle bags as Bakelite, so be weary. If possible to test look for signs of a piece being true Bakelite: no mold lines, colors that change over time as they oxidize, and sometimes a bit of a chemical smell when rubbed or heated up.

You can also use a bit of Simichrome polish on a cotton swab on the piece. If the swab turns yellow then you’ve got Bakelite.

Bakelite handle purse
Via: eBay
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