A Season of Purses…and What I Look For

Lately I’m finding a lot of nice purses when I’m out thrifting…and that’s fine with me. They’re useful, attractive and most women (and some men) carry a purse/handbag/tote/messenger bag and usually own more than one. Best of all, they sell!

My neighborhood thrift store has two big display racks full and some “better” purses in a locked cabinet. I rarely bother with the locked cabinet where they go a bit goofy on pricing, but I do check the racks.


To be honest the majority of the purses on any given visit are not worth reselling. Most are low-end or faux leather or have egregious damage. But I always look because sometimes I find gold in the dross.

Some of my recent “gold”…

Here’s a deliciously soft Eileen Fisher drawstring purse and a fun Bruce Mahkowsky with chain handles and big lock.

And a ruffley Jill Stuart and a vintage Oroton shoulder bag.

And of course, here’s my lovely Kate Spade Grey Street Cooper bag.


Here’s what I look for:

  • Brand/Designer
  • Quality of materials including hardware
  • Workmanship
  • Wear/Cleanliness
  • Appealing or classic design
  • Cost

I’ll buy a purse without a designer label, but I’ll pay more for designers or brands that I know sell well–Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Kate Spade, etc. I don’t find the high-end designers–Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Prada, etc.–which is probably just as well as I wouldn’t trust my judgment in determining if they were fake or not. And of course there are tons of designers out there that I’m not familiar with so a quick in-store search is worth the time.

I look for leather that is soft and substantial. (I choose not buy faux leather.) I also look at the hardware. Do the zippers, buckles and closures work well?

I particularly check the bottom, edges, handles for wear. Leather that is a little scratched or worn can be polished or conditioned to bring it back to life. Here’s a Pierre Cardin messenger/tablet bag I bought yesterday. The leather was thick and soft, but lightly scuffed on the bottom corners.


But I was sure a little black polish would make this look like new…and it did!


This unisex bag (with adjustable strap) has a clean, modern look and should sell quickly.


But certain types of wear are deal breakers. For example, I found a Dooney & Bourke purse but the leather was worn through on part of the piping along the bottom! Yikes! Ideally needlepoint and beaded purses shouldn’t be missing stitches or beads. I don’t buy purses with stains or funky smells unless I’m confident I can fix them.

On a subjective level, do I think the purse design is appealing? I won’t sell a purse I think is hideous or is poorly designed!

spade-bagAnd last, but not least, I look at the price. Does the price leave room for a reasonable profit?  “Reasonable profit” means different things for different people. For me, I generally look to make $30-$80 profit per purse–enough to make it worth my while but still give the buyer a good deal. Sometimes I make less, sometimes a little more. I will pay up for a purse if I think the profit’s there. For example, I paid $21 for this leather Jack Spade computer bag. It sold for $99.99.

Though I am not a fashionista or a purse expert, I am enjoying selling in this niche. I have eight or so to list this weekend! (Most will end up on eBay as they are not “old enough” to put in my Etsy store. I am toying with the idea of starting a Poshmark store, but not sure given amount of social time needed to promote your closet and connect with other sellers. Thoughts??)

As always, happy hunting,

PS. A word of caution. There are a lot of fakes in the market and they are illegal to sell.


  1. Thanks for the info. I find a great purse once in a blue moon here. But, in your neck of the woods it may be to your advantage to start a Poshmark store. You wouldn’t have any trouble finding designer, higher end clothing/purses, etc. to fill it with. May take you longer to sift through all the flotsam to find that treasure, tho!
    I do have an old satchel made of soft, amber leather that I’m itching to recondition. Had it for years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shari. I’m loving the purses I’m finding and I think I could get better prices on Poshmark, just not sure about the time investment and trying to break into that market.

      Yes, do recondition your old satchel. I’m always amazed how leather responds and how long it can last if taken care of. 🙂


  2. Wow! We share the same passion. However, I only realized I had it just last year. And yes, I totally agree; there can be tons of counterfeit items in places like this. Even those bought on bales… sellers can’t even guarantee for the items’ authenticity.

    Liked by 1 person

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