November 12, 2020

Real or Fake? 6 Great Tips for Authenticating a Vintage Louis Vuitton

Niki Tiliakos, Specialist, Lark Mason Associates

When buying and selling pre-owned handbags and luggage, tips for spotting fakes can be very useful.  The following is a guide to authentication that can help you navigate the field and save you from spending your hard earned money on counterfeit items.


The first thing I recommend you look at when assessing a used Louis Vuitton piece is the color of the leather trim.  The leather handles and trim on real Louis Vuitton bags ages to a rich tan color.  The trim on fake handbags usually has a pink or orange hue, and the leather is stiffer and not as soft as the leather on the real thing.  On cheaper fakes they use plastic.


Check the heat stamp. This should be crisp and even. If the ends are not as deep as the rest of the stamp, it is a fake.  There is one font, and the letters should be spaced a certain way.  The spacing on fakes can be off or the sizes of the characters can be off.  


Look at the hardware.  
First off, if the zipper pull or any larger piece of hardware does not have a company logo, it is not real.
Second, if the logo on the hardware is not crisp, even and centrally placed the piece is also fake.
Finally, each piece of hardware is brass, that means each zipper, the zipper pull and each rivet. Some of the better fakes nowadays do have well crafted hardware, so you should also make sure that all pieces of a certain type of hardware on the bag match.
The logo on the rivets on the outside of the bag should match the logo on the rivets on the inside of the bag. Often looking inside the bag can be the most telling in terms of authenticity. On a very good fake, that is the place where you might catch some small differences.  


There are several characteristics of the stitching of a bag that can be very telling. The quality of the stitches, alignment of stitches, the number of stitches and the color of the thread can all indicate whether a bag is real or fake.  Something that you can look for fairly easily is whether all of the stitches are the same length, look at details in placement and make sure they are all aligned.
Do the number of stitches mirror each other on symmetrical parts of the handbag? The number of stitches used at the top of the handle of a Neverfull or any other bag should be the same on both sides. On a real Louis Vuitton bag, there are always a certain number of stitches in each place and that does not vary.  In some instances, an expert can count the number of stitches in certain places to tell whether a piece is real or notFinally, on the traditional monogram bags, the thread color is a specific color yellow on the trim and a specific color brown on the monogram leather.  Look at real pieces and acquaint yourself with the shade yellow and brown that is used.


The codes on Louis Vuitton handbags are actually date codes, not serial numbers.  This means that multiple bags have the same number.  Date codes started in the early 1980’s, so handbags that predate the 1980’s should not have a date code.  The most recent handbags have a date code that begins with two letters that indicate where it was made. The two letters are followed by four numbers that indicate the approximate date the handbag was made.  The first and third numbers indicate the week of the year it was made and the second and four numbers indicate the year.  If a date code does not follow this logic, ie it indicates that the bag was made in 2035, it cannot be real.  
While Louis Vuitton handbags never have serial numbers, their trunks do.  The serial numbers on trunks started prior to the 1980's, so a trunk from the 1930's with a serial number is ok. Dating Vuitton trunks and luggage can be more important than dating handbags.  Handbags are more easily dateable by style, but trunks are fairly consistent in that regard.  One way to narrow down the date a trunk was made is to look at the address and font on the serial number label.   For example, Louis Vuitton was located at the Avenue Marceau address from 1954 to 1986.  If you see a trunk with this address listed on its label, you know it cannot be older than 1986.  To further narrow down the time period, you can look at the font and design of the label.  This trunk was made in the early 1980’s, right before the time the company moved to the Champ-Élysées address that the flagship still holds.


If you are looking at a certain type of bag, compare the images of the bag you are interested in with bags online that you know without a doubt are real.  Make sure you compare all details, inside and out because they can mean a lot, particularly if you are only looking at a photo of an item.  If you are able to look at a real one, obviously that is the absolute best way to familiarize yourself with real bags, however it is not recommended that you go to the store and take up the sales person's time if you are not planning on buying from them.


For additional or item-specific questions, reach out to our Fashion & Jewelry specialist, Niki Tiliakos.
+1 (212) 289-5588 or