You wouldn't think anyone would bother to make fake COACH bags because the originals are relatively inexpensive - at least compared to other high-fashion bags such as Prada, LV, etc. But as you know, people will do anything to make a quick buck. Fake COACH bags are a little difficult to spot, but here are some tips based on my personal experiences and observations:
Please note: I am not affiliated with Coach - I just love their products and hate to see people get taken advantage of...
Photos: Also please note that the photos you see to the right are not my photos - they are listings from other eBay sellers - so they may or may not be authentic. I have no control over what listings appear there - eBay chooses them based on the content of this guide - i.e. regarding coach purses and wallets.
1. Signature fabric: The "C" pattern will be crooked. Except for some newer patterns, like the "optic" or my new favorite "scarf print," the tip of the horizontal "C" facing the other "C" should touch. Also, the pattern should line up and start in the center of the front panel of the bag. The center seam should go straight down through the middle of the CC's, and the pattern should be aligned horizontally and vertically. Also, the pattern should line up on any front or back pockets, so that it looks like there is no break in the pattern. (Note: Sometimes the pattern does not line up on side seams as this is nearly impossible to do.) The best way to tell is to go to the COACH website and look at the real thing, and then compare it to what you're looking at on eBay and see if the pattern is different.
2. Sometimes the "CC" will actually be a "GG" - how much more obvious can you get! And no, this does not mean it's a Gucci! (I'm not as familiar with Gucci products, but if someone is selling you a "COACH" bag which is imprinted with the letter "G" then logically it must be fake.)
3. The stitching or general construction of the bag looks sloppy - this is a sure sign because COACH does not make sloppy products! Each stitch should be the same length as every other stitch, it should be in a straight line, and there should be no "over-stitching".
4. The bag does not look like any other bag you've ever seen - if it looks "sort of" like a bag you've seen but something is "off" - be careful!
5. Replicas: The seller is listing an unusually large number of the same exact bag. This is a red flag because there are websites where you can purchase good-quality replicas, and I have seen these replicas listed on eBay claiming to be authentic. Note that replicas are usually made of fabric, as leather is more expensive and therefore all-leather bags are less likely to be fake. (However, I have seen fake Coach bags made of all-leather. The all-leather fakes are usually very easy to spot - i.e. the quality of the leather is VERY poor, the fixtures are all wrong, etc.)
6. Photos: Beware of blurry photos or stock photos (a stock photo is one that has been cut-and-pasted from the COACH website, usually with a white background) - this does not necessarily mean the bag is fake, but I would contact the seller and ask if they can send you a photo of the actual item they're selling.
7. Authenticity: Take note if there is absolutely no mention that the bag is authentic! If so, ask the seller to verify that they are offering an authentic product. If they fail to respond to your request, this may be a sign that they don't want to incriminate themselves. But be careful! Just because the seller claims it's authentic does not mean that it is.
8. Credo Patch: Most COACH bags have a "serial number" stamped on the inside, on a square patch of leather sewn into the lining. Some of the smaller purses (the "clutch," the "swingpack" and the "mini") do not have a serial number. The serial number typically consists of a series of numbers or a number-and-letter combination. The last 4-5 digits of the serial number indicate the style number of the bag. Careful, though, as fake COACH bags also have a serial number - so just because the bag has a serial number does NOT mean the it is authentic.
**UPDATE** If the patch is not stamped - in other words, embossed into the leather - but is simply printed in ink - beware! The only bags I've seen with the credo patch printed in ink are the newer lines, like the Legacy, where the credo is lettered in gold-colored ink - and even then, it is still stamped into the leather before it's lettered over in gold.
***UPDATE REGARDING "SERIAL NUMBERS"*** History: Bags from the late 1960's did not have any serial number. Coach added serial numbers to the creed in the 1970's - each bag had a unique number - a "serial number" in the true sense of the word. This was apparently true through the 1980's, and it was not until the 1990's that Coach introduced the modern "registration format" of letters and numbers, with the last four digits indicating the style number of the bag - or, in the late 2000's, the last five digits.
9. Fixtures: The "COACH" logo should be stamped on most of the metal hardware - except the older "classic favorite" styles. **UPDATE** Some of the newer COACH bags do not have the COACH stamp on any of the nickel/brass hardware. This is a situation where, because the style of a particular bag may change from year to year, you'll need to find a photo of the authentic product - and make sure it's the same style number - to compare with photos from the ebay auction.
10. Zippers: Although the zipper pull on a real COACH bag will be made of leather or a series of rings, the actual zipper mechanism which pulls the two sides of the zipper together should be embossed with the letters "YKK". This is the highest-quality manufacturer of zippers and COACH uses this brand. Sometimes they YKK stamp is hard to see, especially with very small zippers. **UPDATE** I've received several emails claiming that some authentic bags do not have YKK zippers, including someone who called Coach to confirm this. So if your bag does not have YKK zippers, do not automatically assume the bag is fake - look at the bag as a whole and see if there are any other red flags. Please see the following guide on YKK zippers, which is very helpful: Coach and the YKK Zipper Myth the Basic Facts - ID 10000000040073710
11. Lining: If the outside of the bag has the CC pattern, the lining will NOT have any pattern. If the outside of the bag does NOT have the CC pattern, the lining will most likely have the CC pattern (although sometimes neither the outside nor the inside will have the CC pattern). You will NEVER see a bag with the CC pattern on the outside AND the inside - this is a sure sign of a fake bag. Also, the "classic favorites" style bags do not have a lining at all. **UPDATE** June 2012 - Coach is bringing back their "Legacy Collection" Bonnie Cashin bags, but this time they have a lining, whereas the original bags never had a lining.
12. "Made in China": I've been asked this question often - if it says "Made in China" does that mean it's fake? The answer is no - Coach does make some bags in China as well as other countries, although originally most of their bags were made in Italy.
13. Other Auctions: I've received a lot of questions about bags on Overstock. They have an "auction" section similar to eBay, as does MSN, Yahoo, and others. I would use the same caution in purchasing from any auction. Be especially wary of craigslist auctions as there is no recourse once you purchase an item. Bags sold at "purse parties" are not authentic!
14. Seller Feedback: Finally, don't forget to look at the seller's feedback - what is their rating? If it is not 100% (or at least 99-plus) then make sure to read their feedback comments. If a seller has sold thousands of items, chances are someone has left negative feedback, which does not necessarily mean the bag they're selling is fake. Sometimes buyers get anxious and leave negative feedback without giving the seller a chance to remedy the problem. And as always, ask the seller questions if you have any doubts or need any additional info. If the seller responds with a suspicious explanation, I would be very cautious about bidding.
15. Vendors: And remember - shop for COACH items in department stores and familiarize yourself with the outstanding quality of their products. It will then be easier for you to spot a fake one. Also note that Coach does not sell products "wholesale" or through any vendor other than department stores, Coach retail or outlet stores, and the Coach website. So if you run across a website claiming to sell authentic Coach merchandise, they are most likely counterfeits. These counterfeit websites will usually have some type of "disclaimer" stating that their products are "inspired by" Coach. This disclaimer is usually in fine print or on a separate page - but beware! - some websites do not have any such "disclaimer" and I can't understand why they haven't been shut down yet.
Good luck and have fun shopping! :~)