Authenticating Louis Vuitton is a valuable skill to have and one I have been fortunate enough to become, dare I say an expert at. 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
- 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 the 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.
- Do 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 five main ones should be able to steer you in the right direction of purchase.
1. Check the Patina
When a Louis Vuitton bag is new the vachetta leather handles are a 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 Bags
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. Quality of Craftsmanship
Louis Vuittons 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 ask 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 lose thread on a well worn bag, but never on a new one. I’ve put some of my bags through the ringer 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. Date Codes
The date code is the production number for the bag. It gives information to when and where the bag was produced.
Date Code Formats:
|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
The only 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. The best way 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!
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?