LOUIS VUITTON Date Code & Production Explanation Guide

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Louis Vuitton has been using production codes- or Date Codes as they are commonly referred to... in almost every item that they have produced since the early 1980s.  These codes are included for Louis Vuitton's own "internal purposes" and are not meant (by LVMH) as authentication tools at all.  However, knowing how date codes work can be very helpful when determining the age and authenticity of authentic Louis Vuitton items that are purchased on the secondary market.

Oh, NO!!!  They're giving away all our secrets!!!

I am fully aware that there are sellers and groups of Louis Vuitton admirers who would rather that we not openly discuss date codes in general.  They black out the pictures of DCs that you'll see on eBay or will say that the date code will only be "revealed" to the highest bidder.  And yet, these codes are freely discussed on LV discussion boards and are reproduced in any number of LV guides that you can purchase on eBay or the internet. 

The idea is that counterfeiters might "learn what we know" and will use that info to make better fakes. 

Let's face it... for replica handbags to be as "good" (I know, oxymoron!) as they are today... the fakers are very sophisticated.  They aren't just copying pictures that they see on the internet.  These guys are buying the real deal, ripping them apart and trying as best as they can to make exact replicas.  The logos, lining, hardware and yes, date codes are getting better and better. 

Trust me, Louis Vuitton could make a hologram (like Chanel) or an individual serial number code inside their bags- if they were wanting to help with authentication... but for whatever reason, they've chosen not to do that.  They include these numbers, so that they can tell when and where the bag was made and that's it.  Hermes uses a markings that are similar- in that they are not serial, or holographic, so they are not enough for authenticity purposes- to rely on.

So basically, in my opinion, I'm more worried about you- the honest buyer of authentic Louis Vuitton... who's just trying to get an authentic Speedy or Mezzo or Cherry Blossom Papillon at less than retail.  You're not buying the $39.95 Buy it Now NWT Louis Vuitton on eBay (clearly not authentic)...  and to some degree, date codes can be helpful.

Vintage Louis Vuitton- No Date Codes

Like I mentioned above, Louis Vuitton has been only using these date codes since the early 80s.  This means that Louis Vuitton vintage items- pre early 80's will not have a date code.  They may have other Louis Vuitton markings, but will not have a code.  When it comes to vintage pieces, it's important to know the styles, when they were introduced etc. and then to inspect the brass LV hardware, the lining, the leather and stitches for authenticity.  It is really not uncommon to find nice vintage pieces without a date code.

Vintage French Company pieces- No Date Codes

During a period from the 1970's through 1991- Louis Vuitton had a licensing relationship with The French Luggage Company here in the United States.  I've written an entire guide on Vintage Louis Vuitton French Company pieces...  These items had different markings that its International counterparts.  They also do not have date codes.

Early 80's: Three or Four Numbers

In the early 80's Louis Vuitton used only three or four numbers that would represent the month and year that a particular item was manufactured.  Notice the three digit code below:

If you look carefully, you can see the number 831 near the bottom.  This is a vintage glasses case.  It was made in January of 1983.  The first two numbers represent the year, and the last number represents the month.

Obviously, if the month were October, November, or December... the last number would actually be two numbers... so a glasses case made in November of 1983 would have the date code 8311.

Back "in those days" a date code was a date code... a number that could give you the general date when the item was manufactured.

Late 80's:  Three or Four Numbers Followed by Two Letters

Later in the 80's, Louis Vuitton started using a production code that consisted of the same three or four numbers as above... followed by two letters.  These letters are an abreviation for the factory where that particular piece was manufactured.  Using the number and letter combination- Louis Vuitton (and all of us!) can tell where and when that particular item came to be!  Take the piece below for example (sorry, eBay limits my image size on Guide pictures...)

Notice the code above- 8911 AN.  This vintage Louis Vuitton Rabat was made in a factory in France, in November of 1989.  See the production code below...

This wallet has a date code 884 ET.  So we know that this piece was made in France in April of 1988.

For the vintage Speedy, sometimes LV actually split up the two parts of the date code... so that the numbers were on one set of rivets and the letters were on the other, like this:

The date code above was 892 on one side and FC on the other.

Very early 1990's: Two Letters followed by Four Numbers

I am not sure the exact month that it happened, but I do know that by 1990, at least some Louis Vuitton production codes had taken a new format...  Take a look at this date code- from 1990:

OK, very annoying that these pictures are so tiny- and unclear.  The code above was SL 0990.  Obvioulsy, this code makes no sense with the older formatting of the first two numbers being the year, the second one or two being the month.  With that system, the bag above is made in 2009, in the 90th month- it makes no sense.

But in 1990, Louis Vuitton began staggering the  year and the month... so that the first and third number represent the month, and the second and fourth number represent the year.  This is the method that was used through December of 2006 (scroll below for January 2007 updated).  Here are some examples:

It could be on a vachetta or other colored leather tab (this was from a Mini Monogram Francoise) like this:

Or just embossed in the lining like this (notice there is some color to the embossing... (like this mini pochette that came with a Bucket 27):

Or embossed on the D-ring like on this Cabas Piano:

When embossing is in the alcantara lining, it is often very hard to read.  It helps to know exactly where it should be, and either examine carefully outside or with a flash light.  I have seen alcantara linings that have seen enough wear that the date code is impossible to make out- although I could tell that something had been there.  Here is the date code in a black Multicolore 30:

Other date codes are virtually impossible to get to!  This is the date code for a Papillon 26.  It was so far back in such an awkward spot, that I could hardly find it.

January 2007:  Date Code changes to weekly format.

Again, for whatever reason, Louis Vuitton made another change to the date code format beginning in January 2007.  You will still find the same two letters followed by four number format, however instead of using the staggered month and year, Louis Vuitton is now using a staggered Week of the Year and Year formula... so that...  a date code that says SD 0077 is not a bag that was made in July of 2007, but is a bag that was made in the 7th week of the year 2007- so mid-to-late February of 2007.   For some reason, I can only add 10 pictures to an eBay guide, so I'm not able to add this picture.  I'll get it up on our website soon.

Why are the letters important?

By this 1990s, Louis Vuitton had been manufacturing outside of France for years- through it's partnership with the US based "The French Company" (See my guide to authentic Louis Vuitton French Company pieces if you're interested).  Not only that, but Louis Vuitton had a factory in Spain and soon had one of their own in San Dimas, California. 

This is very interesting, as I mentioned earlier, the two letters correspond with the country of production.  So, if a bag has a date code with the CA pre-fix... I know for sure, that that bag is made in Spain.  You want to be sure that a bag that you are looking to purchase, has a date code- with a prefix for a country of origin that matches the embossing on the bag that says where it's made.  (Made in USA, France, Spain etc.)

So, If I have a bag, with a date code with the CA prefix, and it has "Made in USA" or "Made in France"... I know that at the very least I need to really scruitinize that bag for authenicity.  There are a few reasons why a bag could have a US date code and be Made in France... for example, if the lining has been redone... the date code may be very new (so a bag that was made in 1998 in France could end up with a 2006 date code that was repaired in the USA).  It's just definitely a reason to get a second look at the bag.

So how do you know what those letters mean?  Here's a little guide to help you out.  You'll find the country followed by the letters that coordinate with that country...

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


Spain:  CA, LO, LB, LM, LW

Italy:  CE, SA

Germany:  LP

I'll add more as I think of more... and there are some older ones that I need to update.

Good Luck!

I hope you've found this helpful... remember, the date code is a small, small hint- you have to look at the big picture.  Remember to check my other guides for more indepth help on buying authentic LV on eBay! 

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