The Bible of – Louis Vuitton – Authentication
Because Louis Vuitton is the most counterfeited of any brand, we have created a comprehensive guide to help you separate the genuine from the knock-offs. By making us your most trusted authentication source, you can prevent yourself from spending your hard-earned money on a fake and invest in authenticity instead!
Scrolling through The Vintage Bar catalog, you come across the Louis Vuitton Concorde of your dreams – the rare find, the crème de la crème of vintage bags, that you have been scouring web shops and boutiques for. As you click on it, crossing your fingers it is not already on someone else’s radar, you scan through its photographs, which take you on a virtual tour of our experts’ authentication process. Confident in our 100% guarantee of authenticity, you quickly click ‘add to cart’ and checkout before anyone else beats you to it. With the thrill of the chase over, you can sit back and await the delivery of your bag with the utmost confidence in your purchase.
At The Vintage Bar, we assume the responsibility of authentication for you, aiming to eliminate all anxiety that accompanies shopping vintage. But, do you want to become an expert yourself? We have broken down our rigorous authentication process for you! Whether your own vintage Louis Vuitton or one you have been cautiously eyeing for some time, answer the questions we pose in order to confirm with certainty it is an original.
First things first, acquaint yourself with Louis Vuitton’s different styles. Make sure the bag you are considering is even a style Louis Vuitton has made, and then delve into the details. If, by the end, you can confidently answer that the Speedy should never have feet and the Alma ranges in size from BB to GM, then you are ready to checkout and score your dream bag!
The LV Monogram
First appearing in 1896 to commemorate Louis after he died, the monogram was invented specifically to ward off counterfeits. The trademark ‘LV’ is joined by the diamond, circle, and quatrefoil patterns. When assessing a bag’s monogram, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the monogram light gold in color? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. On the traditional coated canvas, the monogram should never have a green tinge to it.
- Does the pattern order repeat: one row of alternating quatrefoils and circles, one row of flowers, one row of alternating ‘LVs’ and quatrefoils, and, again, one row of flowers? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. The monogram pattern should always be in this order.
- Is the ‘LV’ upside down on the backside of the bag? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Certain styles are made with one continuous piece of leather, which wraps around with no seam on the bottom [see: the Speedy, Keepall, and Papillon for examples]. While monogram pieces with a bottom made of Vachetta or separated by seams, should have right-side-up ‘LVs’ on both sides.
- Is the ‘LV’ logo hidden under a seam or strap? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Louis Vuitton would never obscure its iconic namesake!
- Does the monogram pattern match at every seam? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
Vachetta – an untreated, natural cowhide leather – is used for the handles, straps, trim, and bottoms of Monogram and Damier canvas bags [for some classic examples, see: the Speedy, Alma, Noe, Boulogne, and Keepall]. Because Vachetta is untreated and, consequently, unprotected, it is especially susceptible to exposure to water, sunlight, and skin oils. Its color is a very soft, creamy beige to begin with, but darkens to a deep caramel or brown – a process called patina – over years of use. This coloring is completely unavoidable and, if the bag’s owner carries it frequently or wears a lot of hand cream, may be quickened. Though oil, dirt, and stains can be stripped off with proper cleaning solutions, softening the patina, this is not recommended. The patina gracefully ages a Louis Vuitton without devaluing it; rather, telling its story. Many buyers procure only vintage Louis Vuitton because they prefer their bag to have – at least – a honey shade of patina prior to carrying it!
Aside from adding aesthetic value, the patina also serves as a fundamental step in the authentication process. Vachetta leather has become synonymous with Louis Vuitton bags, and its patina has become synonymous with their authenticity. When inspecting a bag’s patina, ask yourself these questions:
- If the bag is relatively new or only lightly used, does the patina have a distinct yellow or pink tint? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the glaze around the edges of the handles or strap a reddish color? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the color of the patina even throughout? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the patina more concentrated around the top of the handles? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
A heat stamp is a Louis Vuitton marking located either inside or outside the bag. If inside, it can be found on the lining or, in newer styles, on an interior leather or cloth tag; if outside, it can be found on the Vachetta trim, detailing, or strap. The heat stamp will read:
made in (Country)
In studying the content of a heat stamp, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it read ‘MALLETIER’ instead of ‘made in (Country)’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Older styles that were made in France often say this instead.
- Does the interior cloth or leather tag read: ‘made in U.S.A of imported materials’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. This is standard in newer styles.
The heat stamp should be printed clearly with no signs of smudging or bleeding, and in a font that, completely unique to Louis Vuitton, manifests very specific stylistic characteristics. Because the Louis Vuitton font has such strict constraints, it is often used to expose counterfeits. Be mindful that the nuances in shape and size can be extremely subtle, but ask yourself these questions when examining the font on a bag’s heat stamp:
- To begin with, is the font crisp, easily readable, and thin? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the ‘L’ and ‘O’ in ‘LOUIS’ positioned so close that they almost appear to overlap or share a border? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the leg of the ‘L’ short? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the ‘Os’ in ‘LOUIS’ and ‘VUITTON’ wider and rounder than is typical – to the point that they appear large in comparison to the ‘L’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Do the ‘Us’ in ‘LOUIS’ and ‘VUITTON’ appear to be slightly different fonts? Does one appear to be wider than the other? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Does the ‘S’ in ‘LOUIS’ appear standard, while the ‘S’ in ‘PARIS’ appears to have a slightly shorter upper curve than bottom curve? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Are the ‘Ts’ in ‘VUITTON’ positioned so close that they appear to touch and share the same arm? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
Date Code Formats
Louis Vuitton does not imprint its bags with serial numbers but, instead, date codes, which disclose where and when the bag was manufactured. This means they are not unique, so encountering identical date codes on multiple bags, should not necessarily sound any counterfeit alarm bells! Date codes are located, in many different fonts, inside the bag. [The Noe and Sac Shopping are two examples of exceptions to this norm. Their date codes lie along one of the seams, outside the bag, where the handles attach.] A bag’s date code can most commonly be found along one of its side seams on the lining itself, along one of the seams in its pockets, or on a small leather tag – always toward the top of the bag. Often the date codes are stamped very close to the stitching or almost completely blend in with the lining, making them difficult to spot. Familiarizing yourself with the different styles, will make the process of finding a bag’s date code much faster and far less frustrating. For a little extra help, feel free to reference the photos on our site, as we include photographs of the date code on every Louis Vuitton we sell.
If you come across a Louis Vuitton without a date code, do not panic and assume it is a fake; prior to the 1980s, date codes were not included at all, and on older, heavily used bags they may have rubbed off entirely or been removed if the interior lining was replaced. The existence of a date code does not always guarantee authenticity, especially since many counterfeiters are savvy enough to include them, but proceed with caution if you are completely unable to find one.
Currently, date codes consist of a combination of two letters and four numbers but, over time, their format has varied. When hunting for pre-owned Louis Vuitton, it is important to acquaint yourself with their different configurations:
In the early 1980s, date codes were only three or four numbers. The first two numbers represent the year, while the following number(s) represent the month. So, for example, 833 signifies the bag was made in March 1983.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, date codes were three or four numbers followed by two letters. The first two numbers represent the year, while the following number(s) represent the month. The two letters, appearing for the first time, identify the factory and country where the bag was manufactured. So, for example, 873 VI signifies the bag was made in France in March, 1987.
From 1990 to 2006, date codes simply reversed so the two letters came first. While the two letters still identify the factory and country where the bag was manufactured, the order of the numbers changed, making their identification of when the bag was made a little more intricate. From this time on, date codes always consist of four numbers and, within this time period, the first and third numbers represent the month, and the second and fourth represent the year. So, for example, AR1010 signifies the bag was made in France in November, 2000.
From 2007 through present, date codes continue to be two letters followed by four numbers. Now, however, the numbers more approximately detail when the bag was made. The first and third numbers represent the week, and the second and fourth represent the year. So, for example, SP4017 signifies the bag was made in France during the 41st week of 2007.
|DATE CODE COUNTRY LETTERS|
|France||A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS, AH, AN, AR, AS, AX, BA, BJ, BU, CO, CT, CX, DK*, DR, DT, DU, ET, FL, LW, MB, MI, NO, RA, RI, SA, SD, SF, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TH, TJ, TN, TR, TS, VI & VX|
|Germany||LP & OL|
|Italy||BC, BO, CE, FO, MA, NZ, OB, PL, RC, RE, SA, TD|
|Spain||BC, CA, CR, GI, LB, LM, LO, LW & UB|
|Switzerland||DI & FA|
|USA||FC, FH, FL, LA, OS, SD & TX|
Note: this is not an exhaustive list, and some countries share a country code.
*DK is an extremely rare country code, which is only found on bags that have had their interior lining replaced at the Louis Vuitton house in France.
When deciphering a bag’s date code, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the date code make logical sense? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, if the date code reads 8415 or LA6029, then you can be certain the bag is a counterfeit because there are not 15 months or 62 weeks in a year!
- Do the country letters match the made in (Country) on the bag’s heat stamp? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, if the date code reads LP0973 but the heat stamp claims the bag was manufactured in Switzerland, then you can be certain the bag is a counterfeit because LP identifies a factory in Germany!
- Does the Vachetta on the bag’s exterior have a worn and darkened patina, while its interior Vachetta and lining are mysteriously clean and light? Is the bag’s country code also DK? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. A DK country code signifies that the bag’s lining was replaced by Louis Vuitton, so it makes perfect sense that its exterior shows signs of exposure and use, while its interior does not.
In order to ensure its bags are made with only the finest materials and to maintain its highest level of craftsmanship, Louis Vuitton has used its own line of signature – LV stamped – golden brass hardware since 1991. This includes all zippers, grommets, rivets, and studs found on its range of bags. They should all look luxurious, but still be functional and sturdy.
Depending on the bag style and time period, many variations of these hardware elements have been released. You will undoubtedly come across many different styles of zippers! It is best, but not entirely reasonable, to memorize which hardware has been paired with which bag – and when! So, when referencing a bag’s hardware, focus on its smaller details instead, and ask yourself these questions:
- Are the backsides of all the zippers blank? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic, but, if the answer is no, the bag might still be authentic. Prior to 1991, Louis Vuitton did use zippers from TALON, ECLAIR, and C&C. If you see one of these names etched onto the back of a zipper, then check the date code. If it is a pre-1991 bag, the branded zippers might actually be evidence of its authenticity.
- Are the ‘LV’ on the padlock and the ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ on any grommets and studs etched clearly – with no waves – and centered? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. All engravings on the hardware should be completely flawless.
- Written on any grommets and studs, are the ‘Os’ in ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ more squared than in the heat stamp? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. All, even small, hardware details will have ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ engraved onto them in what looks like a different font, showing clearly in the squared ‘Os’ [see: the grommets that the drawstring is wound through on the Noe]. Often, bags are sent to be repaired because small studs have come loose or fallen off. Be aware that, when these details have been replaced, they will no longer feature the ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ engraving.
- Are there chips on any of the bag’s hardware? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. While Louis Vuitton’s padlocks are solid brass, its other hardware is plated. So, chipping can be expected – especially on older vintages.
- Is the hardware uncharacteristically lightweight or discolored? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Most counterfeits use plastic hardware that is coated with gold paint – a giveaway that the bag is not genuine.
For its stitching, Louis Vuitton uses a high-quality linen thread that is strengthened by beeswax. Because of this, on slightly used, like-new bags, you should never see a loose thread; though on worn, vintage bags it is not unheard of – but still, extremely rare.
Louis Vuitton’s meticulous craftsmanship does not stop at its stitching. It must be even and consistent – completely flawless – or the bag will not even make it out of the factory! When scrutinizing a bag’s stitching, ask yourself these questions:
- Are the stitches straight and equidistant from the edges? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Some stitches will be on an angle [see: the handles on Speedy and Neverfull bags], but they should still always be equidistant from the edges at every point and for their entire length.
- Are the individual stitches the same length? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
- Is the number of individual stitches consistent? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, there should always be five stitches across the top – where the handles attach – of a Speedy bag. Study the stitching on different styles, so you can be sure your pre-owned bag measures up!
Do not be shy; take a whiff! It is completely normal for vintage Louis Vuitton bags to have a slight storage or leather odor. But, clarify:
- Does the bag smell of chemicals or plastic? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic, but if the answer is yes, the bag is almost certainly a counterfeit. Authentic bags should never have such an odor.
It Might Be Authentic
Take note that, following all our authenticity questions, we always assert the bag only might be a true Louis Vuitton. In hopes of making the authentication process more comprehensible and less overwhelming, we have broken it down into parts; however, in the end, a bag must be considered wholly. All of the elements listed must be in sync before a bag can be declared an authentic Louis Vuitton.
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Trust Your Gut!
Keep in mind: at the end of every season, Louis Vuitton burns or shreds all of its bags that have not been sold, so you will never see an authentic Louis Vuitton on sale unless, of course, it is pre-owned. But, do not let this send you into a frenzy, impulsively purchasing an especially rare vintage style. If there is no guarantee of authenticity, it is always best to do your research and take your time. If a find seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut, and may we all be lucky in Louis.
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