2007 Mindsay Mohan / Creative Commons

Chanel bags are coveted among bag collectors for their exquisite craftsmanship, classic design, and long pedigree. As a result, they're expensive and hard to purchase online outside of an actual Chanel boutique or high-end department store. Be ready to spend over $2,000 on a Chanel bag and prepare for a luxury shopping experience.

Do your homework! Realize that there are very few places to purchase an authentic Chanel handbag on the Internet. Except for extremely rare occasions, everything online is fake. Ebay auctions are also suspect, and many sellers are shut down for selling fraudulent product. You best bet is purchasing your bag in person from a boutique, or buying online only after many conversations with knowledgeable individuals (the Purse Blog forums at http://www.purseblog.com, for instance) who can recommend a seller.

Locate a Chanel boutique or a trusted consignment boutique nearby where you can actually view the bags. One trusted name in the consignment business is Michael's Consignment in New York City, which sometimes sells merchandise on Ebay or through their online store (http://www.michaelsconsignment.com).

Spend time really scrutinizing the bags to appreciate the quality of what you're buying. A Chanel bag is composed of very fine materials and is an example of excellent craftsmanship. Commonly, the bags have solid gold fixtures, silk linings, and are numbered in a particular series on the white hanging tag(though not on the actual bag). Modern bags also have a hologram inner tag that marks a real Chanel. Once you take in all of the special marks of a Chanel bag, a fake one will seem obvious.

Walk the bag. Hold the bag and walk with it in the mirror. These bags are often an investment of several thousand dollars, so it's necessary to make sure that you're purchasing something you'll love. In addition, determine if the leather is sturdy enough to hold up well under adverse circumstances, the straps are comfortable on your shoulder, and the color will match your wardrobe.

Decide on a bag and purchase it. Make sure that the salesperson gives you a protective felt sack for storage, and keep the receipt in case anything happens that necessitates a return.