Authenticating Louis Vuitton is a valuable skill to have and one I have been fortunate enough to become not only an expert at it but also built a business around it.
Before I had kids studying Louis Vuitton was a hobby of mine. I had several handbags that I purchased at the store and one Saturday afternoon I was on eBay and came across a vintage trunk that was in my price range. The economy wasn’t great and luxury goods were moving so I was able to win this trunk for under $1,000! I became enthralled by the history of this 100-year-old trunk and set out to find as much as I could about it. Not only did I find out that I was the proud owner of Emily Vanderbilt’s trunk I also instantly became a passionate collector.
In building my expertise I have some go-to authentication techniques that can help anyone quickly spot a fake. These tips are essential to read through before exploring the world of the online Louis Vuitton auction. Even with the best education, I urge buyers to be very wary of purchasing Louis Vuitton on eBay. I can’t tell you the number of sellers who are either knowingly selling a Japanese Super Fake knock-off or are completely in denial about the authenticity of their bag. So how do you ensure that the second hand Louis Vuitton you are looking at is real? You do your homework, consult an expert, and follow these tips.
Checklist to Authenticate a Pre-Owned Louis Vuitton Bag
While a formal authentication is a process that is driven by years if not decades of experience along with a deep understanding of the brand and construction, it’s not to say that any fashion lover can’t ask themself good questions to identify if the Louis Vuitton bag that they are looking at is real or fake.
The authentication checklist questions below work for new and pre-owned Louis Vuitton bags.
- Are the color of the straps even throughout? If so, it’s a knockoff
- Is the patina more prominent around the top of the handle strap? If so, it might be real
- Confirm that the style and finish are both correct for what Louis Vuitton makes.
- Is the trim correct? No feet when there shouldn’t be, correct lining inside? If not, it’s a knockoff.
- Is craftsmanship flawless? If not, it wouldn’t have made it out of the factory. It’s a knockoff.
- Does the pattern match at every seam? If not, it’s a knockoff.
- Is the stitching even and consistent? If so, it might be real.
- Does the bag have patches? Most likely a knockoff, possibly a vintage French company.
- Is there a short leg on the “L”? If so, it might be real.
- Are the “O’s” in the logo very round. If not, it’s a knockoff.
- Look for the date code. Is it in the right place? If so, it might be real.
- Does the date code follow the correct format for its age? If no, it is a knockoff.
- Is the LV on the monogram logo cut off anywhere? If so, its a knockoff.
- Is the LV logo ever hidden under a strap or seam? If so, its a knockoff.
- Is there a logo impression heat stamp somewhere on the inside? If so, it might be real.
- Do the snaps on the hardware have the logo? If so, it might be real.
- Does the hardware have discoloring or is not brass? If so, its a knockoff.
- What’s your gut tell you?
4 Tips to Tell if a Louis Vuitton is Real
There are many different techniques to tell if a Louis Vuitton is real but unless you are an expert collector these four main ones should be able to steer you in the right direction of purchase of a pre-owned Louis Vuitton bag.
1. Is the Bag’s Patina Right For It’s Age
When a Louis Vuitton bag is new the vachetta leather handles are soft and sublet almost off-white leather. Over time the oils from your hand and the exposure to the elements cause this soft leather to become harder and the color changes. This change in color is called a patina.
The patina on bags like the Speedy is beautiful. I’ve actually had someone once offer to buy my used bag off me in exchange for a new one because she liked the way my patina looked so much better than her brand new bag that she hardly carried (I guess this is an advantage of the longevity of ownership).
A pre-owned Louis Vuitton will most likely have a darker patina. Although it is possible to clean the leather to lighter it, most people do not do this, especially people who have decided to sell the bag. Even a second hand Louis Vuitton with cleaned leather will still be slightly darker around the handles.
2. Know the Styles That Louis Vuitton Produces
This is an easy area for a newbie to feel foolish. You need to make sure that the bag you are purchasing, is, in fact, a style that Louis Vuitton made, and that you are purchasing it in the right color and monogram pattern that is offered with that collection.
Does a speedy bag have feet? Never. Is the backside of the monogram on a Speedy upside down? Always. Is the lining on the Neverfull tan, red, or orange? Trick question, it’s all of the above but only for certain bags and certain years. These are questions you should bait yourself with at each buying decision.
Since I am a somewhat serious collector, I also collect the catalogs. Each Louis Vuitton store gets a handful of catalogs each year. The catalog is intended for the sales associates use in-store to assist customers. You can’t purchase the catalog through Louis Vuitton (trust me I’ve tried) but every so often one appears on eBay and I quickly snatch it up. If you are a collector of vintage Vuitton like I am, you should try to start locating the really old catalogs. I have one from 1913 that is basically my bible for exotic Louis Vuitton items.
3. Does the Quality of Craftsmanship Match the Louis Vuitton Standard
Louis Vuitton bags are simple in design and construction and have flawless craftsmanship. The consistency of stitching is executed identically across all bags. For example, a speedy bag will always have 5 evenly placed stitches across the top. A good trick would be asking a friend who has a store-bought authentic bag to let you count the stitches and then match it up to the bag you are considering.
Yes, you will occasionally see a loose thread on a well-worn bag, but never on a new one. I’ve put some of my bags through the wringer and still have never seen a loose stitch.
- If it’s a bag that is less than 10 years old, be cautious.
- If it’s a bag that is over 20 years old be forgiving.
- If it’s over 30 years old, let’s talk in a different post because there are many other nuances you need to know about.
4. Is The Louis Vuitton Date Code Accurate?
The date code is the production number or product code for the bag. It gives information to when and where the bag was produced. The Louis Vuitton date code is not a serial number or unique to the bag but it does give you important information about where and when the bag was produced. A fake bag can still have a real date code sequence but anytime you look at a Louis Vuitton you should always read the date code to determine where and when the bag was made. Also, many times you’ll discover that when you check the Louis Vuitton date code that the sequence is not correct and are able to quickly determine the bag is fake.
How To Read A Louis Vuitton Date Code:
|Vintage Louis Vuitton*:||No Date Codes|
|Vintage French Company:||No Date Codes|
|Early 80’s:||Number + Number + Number + (possibly 4th Number)|
|Late 80’s:||Number + Number + Number + (possibly 4th Number) + Letter + Letter|
|Early 90’s:||Letter + Letter + Number + Number + Number + Number|
*Vintage Louis Vuitton trunks depending on the age might have a serial number. This number can be checked with Louis Vuitton’s Patrimoine department in France.
Date Code Letters:
The date code letters tell you what country the bag was made in. These letters should always match what country the bag displays it’s “Made in” label. Although there might be a 1 in 100,000 chance that the bag was made in the US but stamped AA for France because it needed to be repaired, you don’t want to be purchasing that bag second hand anyway.
Date Code Country Letters:
|France:||A0, A1, A2, AA, AN, AR, AS, BA, BJ, CT, DU, ET, FL, MB, MI, NO, RA, RI, SD, SL, SN, SP, SR, TH, VI|
|USA:||FC, FH, LA, OS, SD|
|Spain||CA, LO, LB, LM, LW|
Photo Guide to Spotting a Fake Louis Vuitton Bag
A picture is worth a thousand words. See the differences between real and fake Louis Vuitton bags in these photos courtesy of Fashion Pulis
Remove the Risk of Buying a Fake Louis Vuitton
One way to truly remove the risk when buying a pre-owned Louis Vuitton is to have it authenticated. If you are purchasing through a reputable website they mostly like already use an authentication service to ensure that all the bags they sell are authentic. The only trade-off with this is that they tend to charge a higher premium for their bags. To cost-effectively buy a used Louis Vuitton is directly from a seller on a site like Poshmark, or eBay. Typically this would come with high risk but that is completely removed when you order an authentication.
A good email-only authentication will allow you to use the listing pictures to professionally determine if the bag you are buying is authentic. Having an authentication done before you purchase can save you hundreds if not thousands by helping you avoid buying a knockoff. With the amount of Japanese super fakes on the market, today and the amount of bags being knocked off to look like they are vintage and confuse people, always having a professional authentication is a must!
The Bottom Line
Don’t let yourself want the bag to be real so bad that you overlook the signs. Sellers might even honestly think that the bag they are selling is real and not realize that it’s a fake. Whether you decide to purchase your bag directly from a seller or through a cosigner like FASHIONPHILE, always do your own research to be an educated buyer.
Have you purchased a Louis Vuitton bag on eBay? What tips did you use to ensure that your bag is authentic?