AUTHENTIC COACH - VINTAGE AND CLASSIC LEATHER
There is almost as much confusion about Coach's classic leather items from before 2000 as there is about newer styles, especially when it comes to authenticity. This Guide will try to clear up some of it.
COMMON MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS:
Some think that older all-leather bags weren't faked. Not true at all! Coach leather items have been faked for decades, probably at least as far back as the mid-1980s. There are a lot more fakes than almost anyone realizes, since the better ones are almost impossible to spot unless the authenticator is familiar with the different kinds of Coach creeds and has a genuine item in the same style to compare it to. As long as a fakes maker was willing to invest some time and money in high-quality leathers and skilled craftspeople, classic Coaches could be surprisingly easy to counterfeit. The major mistake was often what looks like overprocessing, maybe stretching or stressing the leather too much to try and give it that same flexibility and softness as a vintage Coach. The fakes often end up with leather covered in small surface wrinkles that resemble the stretch marks a pregnant woman can get. Some stretching of a well-used bag is normal but usually the stretched "elephant skin" will be in high-stress areas like the bases and bottom corners where a lot of the bag's contents settle and pull at the leather. The stretch marks on the fakes can be all over the bag, and in places where there should be no stresses at all. That kink of unusual leather damage can be a red flag, and is usually found with some strange mistakes in the creed or serial number.
SPEAKING OF LEATHER
Sometimes an older Coach will be branded a fake because the leather is thinner than the classic baseball-glove style leather used for most Coach bags since they started making handbags in 1960. But Coach did make a line of Lightweight bags starting in the late 1980s to try and reduce the weight of the bags and prevent shoulder and back pain. The leathers were thinner, and hardware was kept to a minimum and also made lighter, smaller and thinner, with magnetic snaps often replacing the classic brass turnlocks and plastic zippers often replacing the old brass ones. Even in modern bags, Coach uses a wide variety of fabrics and leathers, and no one can claim something's counterfeit because the fabric isn't the same as a totally unrelated bag - you have to compare apples and apples. When in doubt, ask at Ebay's Purse forum for help.
AUTHENTICATING VINTAGE AND CLASSIC (pre-2000) HANDBAGS
The YKK zipper "rule" has even less validity with older bags than with newer styles. Coach originally used US-made Talon zippers on their classic leather bags, even putting an "industrial-style" heavy duty version in some of their casual bags. While some 1980s and 1990s styles also used YKK, after Coach moved some of its plants to Italy, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Hungary, and Mexico some of those plants may have used local brands from the countries the items were made in. Speaking of Coach plant locations, Coach also had several pilot plants operating in both China (mid-1990s) and Thailand (2000-2003 for mostly business and travel bags) before switching production completely to SE Asia.
And yes, some classic Coaches really did have plastic zippers.
CELL PHONE HOLDERS
No genuine leather Coach has ever had a cell phone holder sewn on to the outside of the bag. Any time you see a classic leather "Coach" with a big clunky phone holder mounted to one of the sides (the narrow edges) of the bag, hit the Back button.
Korea is probably the reigning king of the fakes makers when it comes to leather bags and has been for at least 20 years. They've also counterfeited fairly accurate versions of Sheridan-style pebbled leather wallets and accessories. Both small storefront shops and large manufacturers could supply or copy just about any designer bag style and stamp it with whatever brand name a customer wanted. Stories have been posted for years about how easy it is for tourists or service personnel stationed there to get high-quality counterfeit bags. Coach actually had to take legal action against a number of counterfeiters who "jumped" their trademark and tried to register the Coach name to various Korean companies with no connection to Coach. One of the companies named WAKO finally changed the Coach name they'd been putting in their stamped creeds to WAKO after the lawsuit, and once in a great while a WAKO-branded bag will show up on Ebay. They were not made by Coach although some sellers don't know that.
Whether because of the lawsuit or not, Coach has NEVER made bags in Korea. Every "Made In Korea" creed is in a counterfeit, and many of the fakes from that country also drop the "No" from in front of the serial number and just use a simple 5 or 6-number bogus serial, such as 101-01", "201-121", just as examples. Any serial number in this format just screams "Fake". Many of their fakes also use very poor English and the creeds mention "wrinXles" and "marXings".
Sometimes a leather Coach will show up that looks just like a genuine bag, except for one extra word in the creed stamping. It will begin "This is a Coach BEAN Bag...". Well, there has never been a genuine Coach handbag with a Bean Bag creed. Coach did bring out several mini bags in 2011 for their Poppy line and called the style a Bean Bag because of the shape, but they just have the standard Coach creeds.
The phony creed seems to have been copied from several small items Coach made around 1990. One was a small but heavy desk paperweight filled with metallic beans, and the other a keyfob with a similar but smaller leather bean-filled bag. Coach created the "Bean Bag" creed for them and stamped them with it, and apparently some fakes maker thought he'd found a perfect Coach creed to copy and had no clue what a Bean Bag actually was or that the creed was Coach's idea of a joke or at least a play on words. So - Bean Bag keyfobs? Cute and collectible, just don't use them with your car keys, too heavy. Bean Bag creeds in handbags? Fake-O.
SERIALS AND CREEDS
Style and serial numbers have already been covered in the Salearea Guides on Coach creeds and Coach serial numbers. Just remember, items from before 1994 don't include style numbers and can't be researched or looked up anywhere using the last 3 or 4 numbers of the serial. Very old handbags going back to the early styles, the Bonnie Cashin bags (1960? to 1974), and bags from the mid-1970s may not have creed stamps and the stamps may not have numbers.
Serial numbers after the late 70s used a format of 3 numbers, a dash, then 4 numbers up to some time in 1991 (the date is slightly revised from my earlier Guide after finding more evidence). Then beginning in about 1990 or 1991 the format was switched to 4+3, again all numbers, and all serials were random and unique to each bag or item. Remember that early serial numbers were hand-stamped, and a lot of mistakes in spacing and alignment were made, so don't expect them to look perfect and don't think they're fake if they don't. EARLY COACHES WEREN'T PERFECT. Whoever says they were (and some Authenticity Guides still do) doesn't have much experience with older Coaches.
In 1994 Coach scrapped the old system, adding an alphabetical sequence A thru M (skipping "i") for the month of manufacture, a single number beginning with 4 in 1994 for the year code, and a third digit that could be either a letter or number for the plant where the item was made. To complicate things, very rarely a plant might neglect to "read the memo" and use the "i" or "N" month codes, but so did some fakes manufacturers. Those bags need to be looked at by experts - see the URL for Ebay's Shoes & Purses board and the other information near the top of this page. The second half of the serial number became the style number.
Some plants simply ignored the "rules" - early 1990s Dakota pebbled leather bags had creeds but no serial numbers, some Sheridans had numbers and some didn't, and the codes for the month and the year sometimes were reversed by plant personnel in both Sheridans and Sonomas. And any Rules about creeds having neat well-aligned stamping and stitching were completely ignored by most plants that made the mid-90s Sonoma line.
FAKES, CODES AND FAKES LISTS
Figuring out if a classic or vintage bag is counterfeit can be incredibly complicated. Since pre-1994 bags don't include the style numbers, it can be hard just trying to decide what style a bag is supposed to be. With no year codes, the age of the bag has to be figured out from the information in the creed stamp, like whether it's stamped "Made in New York City" (probably from before 1988) or "Made In The United States" (probably 1988 or later) or from photos in old catalogs. Some fakes give themselves away by having the wrong creed. The ones after 1994 are a bit easier but it still takes some research and digging through notes, photos and old catalogs to determine if a bag could have been made in the time period shown by the serial number. Obviously, it's best to leave that to an expert who has that kind of library available. Some are obvious though, like ANY Signature C fabric bag with a serial number showing a single-number year code from "4" to "9" since Signature C styles didn't come out until 2000, and none were ever made in US plants so a "Made in the United States" creed would also be a huge red flag.
There are also several up-to-date lists of many of the frequently-used fake serial numbers available here at Ebay and on the internet, broken down by "always fake" and "may be fake, get authenticated".
Our independent contractor "Hyacinth" has an extensive list available.
Authenticating older Coaches can be a real challenge. But they're a pleasure to own because of the classic styles and the quality of the crafting and the leather. Many Coach fans are starting to look for older and vintage bags that may need a bit of TLC and bringing them back to almost-new condition. With some exceptions like the real Bonnie Cashin bags, unlined older Coach leather bags can be washed, reconditioned and reshaped and some of the signs of age made much less noticeable. Potential buyers need to know what they're getting and how much effort they have to put in, so be sure your sellers always show clear photos of any vintage bag so you can check it for damage and get a clear idea of any flaws before you decide to try a bath and rehab. Googling " coach rehab rescue purseblog " will point anyone considering a rehab in the right direction.
Christian Dior Vintage grey/navy signature jacquard & leather bowler satchel zg