This category is the trickiest, because what may look in excellent condition to the seller may be only in good condition to a buyer.
Do NOT buy a purse that is peeling! Certain materials used by Kathy are prone to peeling after a few years. A peeling purse means it is old or has been used for a long time. This is especially true of her bags made out of Nappa. There is a style of bag that is notorious for peeling: The Berkeley bag, which is available in a hobo or belted shopper style. (See pic below).
This happens to be my very favorite style of Kathy bag. It comes in bone, grayish blue, beige and black. It has a beautiful antique bronze heart-shaped key chain. Unfortunately, the nappa used on this bag (the colors are matte with no sheen) tends to peel very badly, especially at the top where the purse is opened.
There is a similar style that also is prone to peeling. Again, it is a belted shopper (see photo below) in light blue or ivory "distressed-looking" nappa. The key fob is made out of strips of leather, wooden beads and bronze chains/charms. The light blue purse is especially prone to peeling at the top. If you see this exact bag on eBay, be sure to ask the seller if there is any splitting or peeling at the top. I've done that, and almost every seller discovered some peeling and had to modify their auctions as a result.
Another purse with peeling problems is the Wild Child Satchel or Hobo in beige. The hobo style has one rhinestone buckle while the satchel has two, as shown in the photo below. I have this exact Wild Child satchel pictured below that was never used--but it began to peel because it was an older bag OR because of the change in humidity. (I live in Hawaii, so the humidity and salt air causes things to break down faster than in a dryer climate). I find the Wild Child purses in blue, bronze, gold, silver or white seem to hold up better than the beige-colored ones.
Once a purse starts peeling, it will continue to do so. Nappa is made out of a thin vinyl outer layer that is laminated to a white canvas underneath. Somehow the glue that binds the two materials together breaks down with age or usage, resulting in peeling. The problem with modern faux leather bags is this: while the material resembles real leather more than the old vinyl bags of the 1960s-1990s, it breaks down a lot faster.
Often sellers do not give thorough descriptions of their merchandise, so it is important to ask questions before you bid or buy. These are questions I always ask:
Any ink marks, stains or rips on the inside lining? Any ink marks on the outside?
Any splits or holes on the outside, especially on the vinyl corners? Any peeling of the vinyl, especially at the top? If the purse is fabric, ask if there's any fraying on the outside corners or areas where the plastic piping is exposed.
Any cracking of the handles?
Any areas where dye has transferred? (i.e. blue jeans rubbing against a light-colored purse often will transfer its dye to the bag)
Does this purse come from a smoke-free home? Does it have any odors? (I once bought a purse that smelled like an ashtray. Be aware that is nearly impossible to get cigarette smoke out of a vinyl bag. If the bag is fabric, you may have a chance, but the vinyl trim may continue to smell.)
How old is the purse? How long was it carried?
If there are no measurements given, ask for them, unless you already know. Often I will buy a favorite style in different colors, so then I don't need measurements.
If the purse has a metallic finish (bronze, silver, gold), ask if there's any areas where the metallic finish has rubbed off. Underneath the metallic paint is usually a pink, yellow or white vinyl.
If the purse has rhinestone buckles like the Wild Child western bags or the Crown Princess bags, ask if there's any rhinestones missing and how many.
If the purse is one of Kathy's heavily stoned/studded evening bags, ask if there are any missing. Sometimes the studs or rhinestones fall off.
If the purse is "Angel Dusted" suede like the black one pictured, ask about the condition of the exterior, especially if there's a lot of surface dirt. I have tried cleaning sparkle-dusted suede, only to have all the glitter come off in the wash. One time I bought a pink angel-dusted organizer bag, and it arrived with most of the angel dusting scrubbed off; in fact the bag had scrub marks all over it.
You need to make sure a bag is in very good to excellent condition, because on top of the bid price, you will have to add postage. So it's important to ask questions before you bid. The two times I didn't do this but placed a last-minute bid, I wound up with bags in extremely used condition that should have been earmarked for the Goodwill.
Be careful of sellers who do not describe their purses well. I've seen some people write: "It's really a cute bag!" To me, that does not offer any information about the bag's condition; it's only the seller's opinion. If a seller does not respond to your questions about the purse's condition within a day or two, move on. Don't risk buying something that might not be what you expected, especially if the photos or the description are not clear.
You cannot rely on the photos alone. Although eBay now features that wonderful magnifying features for photos, sellers can still retouch them. If the auction page doesn't have the magnifying feature, photos on eBay are low-res and may not show all the surface flaws. I once bought a gold Wild Child bag that looked almost brand new in the photos, but when I got it, the bag was scratched up, with many areas rubbed off.
Rubber edging on certain styles of handles: this holds true for the round handles (see the Wild Child purse photo). The edges of these handles will be covered with a rubber trim that matches the handle color or maybe as an accent. Be aware that this rubber edging tends to peel off due to the oils from your hands. Although it does not detract much from the aesthetics of the bag, sometimes used bags often won't have rubber edging on the handles, unless the purse is in mint, nearly unused condition.
For purses with floral or brocade fabric exteriors, make sure the fabric
has not pulled away or frayed from the vinyl trim at the top edge. I had this happen with a brocade
shopper, and it was not repairable.
You can how frequently or long a bag was used by the inside lining. Most of Kathy's bags have the gold or pink purse-patterned lining. When new, this lining is shiny and crisp. It will even crackle when you pull it out. If you get a lightly used Kathy bag, the lining should still have its sheen and crispness. In Kathy bags that are heavily used, the lining will be soft, limp and dull. It may be thin in places. However, that won't deter from the bag's functionality, but you will have a bag that has been used for a long period of time. Below is a photo of the lining from a brand new purse.
Be careful if the lining has rips, especially at the seams or stress points. Usually that means the fabric has frayed. If the tear is at the bottom, that is an easy fix with your sewing machine. But if it is at the side seams or pulled away from the vinyl trim, that's a difficult fix. If the hole is in an area where you can't pull the lining out to fix it, that is not good. I once bought a pink Kathy Colorburst bag that has the large outside pocket. There was a huge hole at the bottom of that pocket, and reaching inside, I found a number of the previous owners' items that had slipped through. The hole could not be patched because the lining was fused to the bag and couldn't be pulled out. Needless to say, the purse was returned. The seller failed to examine the purse carefully. Thanks to me asking her if there were rips in the lining prior to bidding (and being told there wasn't any), the seller took the bag back, no argument. Still, I had to pay to ship it back which I wasn't too crazy about, because essentially I was still penalized by the seller's mistake. But that's the risk you take buying on eBay.
Even if you ask questions, sometimes the sellers will miss flaws and you'll have to pay to ship it back, unless you go through eBay's Resolution Center.
Note: There are newer linings Kathy uses that are softer and don't have the crispness or sheen of her purse pattern lining such as the ones pictured below. In a new purse, these linings will be immaculate and just have that "new" feel. In a used purse, this type of lining tends to look grimy or grayish.
NEW WITHOUT TAGS PURSES (NWOT)
This is another tricky category. Often sellers will try to sell a used bag as NWOT. Why I know is I bought a bag labeled as NWOT and found the owner's personal effects in them: some clothing price tags, grocery store receipts, a couple of pennies and bobby pins. In addition, the vinyl corners had peeled at the very edge. The seller never responded to my complaints but quietly gave me a refund.
Maybe I'm a stickler, but to me, if a purse has been carried even ONCE, it is no longer NWOT but used. It can be categorized as in EUC (Excellent Used Condition) or Mint, but not new. Ask the seller if the purse has ever been carried, and if so, how many times. In several cases where I've asked this, sellers will admit the purse had been carried. That indicates you may be dealing with a less than honest seller. If you buy a NWOT bag, the purse has to be never used and in pristine condition with a clean, crisp lining.
NEW PURSES (NWT or NEW WITH TAG)A new purse has its hang tags attached with fishline. Sometimes there's a blue Kathy ID card in one of the inside pockets next to the cell phone pocket. And if you're lucky, there will also be a Kathy brochure. Believe it or not, I've even had trouble with purses that sellers listed as New With Tags.
Overstock Bags/Returns/Old Store Stock: If a purse is listed as any one of these, be careful. These bags, though technically new, may have flaws, defects, dye transfers or are shopworn. Once I bought a signature fabric satchel pictured below from somebody who used to own a boutique.
There was no hang tag present; it had been ripped off and only the fish line remained. The corners of the purse were made of piping covered with fabric. This fabric had frayed and split, exposing one-inch of the plastic piping underneath on three corners. There was no purse charm zipper pull; the seller had attached an old, used, scratched-up heart key chain to the zipper. When I asked about the missing hang tag, she said the tag was "inside the purse", meaning the blue Kathy ID card. (That is not considered a tag.) Instead of agreeing to a return, she tried to "bargain" with me and asked what I would be willing to pay for the purse, meaning she'd offer a partial refund but no returns. She missed the point entirely, because I did not want a purse that was so shopworn that it looked used, which this one did. I ended up filing a case for my refund. The Resolution Center was in its infancy at the time, so I still had to pay to ship it back. Had I filed a case now, most likely I would received a full refund without having to return the bag to the seller because she blatantly misrepresented the condition of the bag.
So, ladies, even if the purse is new, ask the seller if the bag has any defects, flaws or discolorations. Most honest sellers will disclose any flaws a new purse may have.
ALSO--ask if the purse is from a smoke-free home and/or has any odors.
I once bought a NWT Pop Culture orange bag like the yellow one below with a matching wallet. The thing reeked of cigarette smoke so badly that I had to Febreeze it several times, air it out for a couple weeks, then pack it away for several months in Bounce sheets before I got rid of the smell. The bag had been stored in the closet of a very heavy smoker. Eventually I sold the purse at a considerably lower price than what I paid. Again, you don't want to get an all-vinyl Kathy bag that smells like cigarettes, because odors are very difficult to remove from this type of material.
Another NWT Berkeley Shopper I purchased had been stored in a barn. It was not fun receiving a purse that reeked of horse manure. Still another NWT purse had been stored in a box near a fire place. Oddly enough, the fireplace smoke odor was very easy to get out; it took a week of airing the purse outside in an enclosed lanai.
Since then, I have learned several tricks to clean Kathy bags, even the smoky vinyl ones. I will write another guide on how to clean Kathy bags.
I hope this guide has helped you. Thank you for taking time out to read it. Good luck finding that special Kathy bag on eBay!