In Memoriam: How Death Affects the Secondhand Market

In light of the recent passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the German fashion designer known as the creative director of Chanel and Fendi, we examine the consequences of death on the secondhand market.

In Memoriam: How Death Affects the Secondhand Market

When someone famous for their craft passes away, modern society collectively mourns.

Whether that person is an artist, designer, architect, activist, actor or comedian, we see that death affect society at large: celebrities speak out about their personal connection with the person, social media posts are published, in memoriam articles are written, videos are posted, awards and foundations are dedicated to that name, and, eventually, anniversaries are celebrated.

And then there’s the trending searches for the person who’s passed away and the increase in the value of his or her goods.

Celebrities such as Julianne Moore, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow took to Instagram to give their farewells to Karl Lagerfeld after his passing on Tuesday 19 February, 2019
Celebrities such as Julianne Moore, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow took to Instagram to give their farewells to Karl Lagerfeld after his passing on Tuesday 19 February, 2019

It’s common to see an increase in the value of a good attributed to a person who’s recently passed away, and there are several reasons for this.

When an artist dies, you’re able to assess his or her oeuvre in its entirety: there’s no question of where their style will go next. When it comes to Pablo Picasso, we don’t wonder what he’ll produce in a month’s time: will Picasso make a false move or, perhaps even worse, will he overproduce works (so that supply outstrips demand), causing his work to devalue? No, of course this won’t happen, as Picasso died in 1973 and he therefore won’t be producing further work any time soon.

London Fashion Week 2019. Photo: Fashionista
London Fashion Week 2019. Photo: Fashionista

Death, as crass as it may seem, also piques people’s curiosity. Take the recent passing of Karl Lagerfeld, the German fashion designer best known as the creative director of Chanel and Fendi. The average John Smith and Jane Doe at home, who previously may have never have even heard of Karl Lagerfeld, now see Lagerfeld’s name buzzing on global news stations and on social media. John and Jane immediately take to search engines to type in the designer’s name and see what this icon is all about.

Start your search for Chanel here

On Tuesday 19 February 2019, just hours after Karl Lagerfeld’s passing at the age of 85, Barnebys saw an increase in searches for Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld on the secondhand market. Between Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 February, Chanel jumped up by more than thirty rankings to become the eleventh-most-popular search term on the Barnebys global analytics. With an increase in demand for Chanel goods, prices will only increase.

Pontus Silfverstolpe, co-founder of Barnebys, says “It’s normal to see an increase in the market just after a famous designer has passed away.”

He continues, “Even though the boom for fashion and vintage goods took place in 2014, when the Chinese market was at its hungriest, in general we have seen an increasing interest and price for fashion and vintage over the last few years.”

“In particular, handbags have increased in price as well as bijouterie from the biggest fashion houses like Chanel, Hermès, Dior and Gucci.”

When it comes to demand for fashion and vintage, a lot of this is coming from Asia. Pontus Silfverstolpe adds, “The increased prices has very much been driven by the demand from the Asian market, especially China, but also by an American and European audience which are more and more happy to buy things online and on the secondhand market.”

Here, you can see end prices from the world’s biggest price archive when it comes to art, design, antiques and collectibles