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Real or Not? Beginner’s Guide to Authenticating Designer Handbags

Original post featured in the National Pawnbrokers Association Fall 2015 issue with permission from Michael Mack, Owner of Max Pawn. As electronics and musical instruments begin to lose their resale value,… Read More

Original post featured in the National Pawnbrokers Association Fall 2015 issue with permission from Michael Mack, Owner of Max Pawn.

micahel at max pawnAs electronics and musical instruments begin to lose their resale value, pawnbrokers should take a look at nontraditional luxury items like authentic designer handbags, wallets, belts, travel bags, sunglasses, and other fashion accessories. High-end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Dior, Fendi, Balenciaga, Bottega, Judith Leiber, YSL, Chloe, Celine, Michael Kors, and Coach can be a new source of revenue for your store.

How to Authenticate

All brands have unique and specific characteristics that set them apart from other brands while also helping to verify their authenticity. Some of the characteristics to look for, depending on the brand, include stitching, hardware, heat stamps, leather sealant, date codes, and model numbers.
One of the most popular bags seen at Max Pawn is the Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30 handbag. Speedy 30s are made from a water-resistant coated canvas exterior with leather vachetta trim and handles. Take a close look at the monogram pattern to make sure you see continuity. Do all of the symbols look consistent throughout? Is the size of the monogram normal?

lv speedy 30For Speedy bags specifically, Louis Vuitton will use one large piece of canvas for the bag and wrap it around. The monogram will be right side up on the front and upside down on the back. Whenever you see a Speedy bag come in with the monogram right side up on the front and the back, you can automatically conclude the bag is a replica.

Next, look at the vachetta natural leather trim and handles. In newer handbags, the handles and trim are a light natural tan color. Over time, the oils in our hands create a patina or darkening in the leather which you will see in some of the older handbags. Many replica bags have handles and trim with an orange tint. Whether the bag is new or old, the leather should never look orange, and any bags having this will give you another quick hint that the bag may be a replica.

Stitching is another important factor in distinguishing an authentic and a replica Louis Vuitton Speedy bag. All Louis Vuitton stitching is extremely precise with every stitch being straight and perfectly in line all the way across both the exterior and interior. Any handbags with botched or uneven stitching should bring up a red flag.

Date Codes

Although the format of the date code has changed throughout the years, every Louis Vuitton handbag and accessory produced after 1980 has a date code, a set of letters and numbers that correspond with when and where the piece was made.

In the 1980s, the date code consisted of three or four numbers with the first two numbers representing the year and last number(s) representing the month. For instance, “836” would indicate a date of June, 1983. For all Louis Vuitton items produced between 1990 and 2006, you will see two letters followed by four numbers. The letters represent the country of origin. The first and third numbers represent the month of production, while the second and fourth numbers represent the year of production. For example, the date code “TH0013” would tell us that a particular Louis Vuitton bag was made in France in January of 2003.

Date codes for items made in or after 2007 have the same two letters and four numbers with the two letters still representing the country of manufacture. The numbers switch up a bit however, with the first and third representing the week of the year, and the second and fourth still representing the year. For example, the date code “CA0124” indicates this particular Louis Vuitton item was made in Spain during the second week of 2014.

Keeping an eye out for these specifics will have you well on your way to stting apart the authentic from the replicated Louis Vuitton items. For those times when you are not sure, Max Luxx Authenticators can help. Max Luxx Authenticators was created to give pawnbrokers a quick assurance of authenticity. Text or email a few select photos to the Max Luxx authentication team, and clients will receive a reply within the hour (typically within less than 20 minutes), stating whether an item is authentic with 98% accuracy. Text requests can be sent to (702) 913-5626 or email the information to


About Michael Mack:

Michael Mack is the Principal Owner of Max Pawn, Founder of Max Luxx Authenticators, and Strategic Partner with Entrupy. He can be contacted at


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