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When it comes to vintage Chanel handbags, there is a huge market. Many people enjoy collecting vintage purses and they will pay more than the original retail price for them.
It is easy to see why: A new purse can be bought for $400-$600 and some women want an older one that has some history. Whether it’s a Chanel Classic Flap vintage bag or a Chanel Fanny Pack.
This guide explains how to tell if a bag is real or fake, as well as some ways to prevent being fooled into buying a fake.
What is Vintage?
Vintage means an item that is at least 10 years old. It is usually over 20 and there are some places where it can be 30 or 40 before it is considered vintage.
Handbags made in the past few years will not be valuable as a vintage purse, no matter how high their quality was.
What to look for when shopping for a vintage Chanel bag:
Look for flaws:
All purses show wear but usually not all at once. A vintage bag that has two big scratches by the clasp and several small ones elsewhere is probably not real.
Also, beware of bags that have both white and gold hardware- this is a sign they are reproductions because Chanel was inconsistent with its hardware until recently when it switched to only putting gold hardware on newer models.
Photos cannot provide an accurate assessment of whether or not a bag is fake so always see it in person if possible before buying it. Make sure the seller has a return policy so you can check it out and send it back if there is something wrong with it.
Check the store policy:
Ensure the store has a good return policy and is well rated by previous buyers. This will show that they care about their reputation and it will ensure you can get your money back if something goes wrong with the bag.
Look at the logo:
The logo design on a Chanel bag should be clean and crisp, not blurred out in any way. Another thing to consider is how often it changes- older bags tend to have either “Chanel” or just “CHANEL” written in each of the two logos.
Since 2004 though it changed to just be one big CHANEL written across both sides of the logo, however, some “old bubble style” purses might still have both names present if it is an authentic vintage bag.
The S/N (Serial Number):
All Chanel bags have a serial number. This is a 7 digit code that can be found under the flap on the back of the bag, inside a pocket at the front, and even on top of some purse chains.
These numbers should match up if all other information about it being real is correct- this includes matching the hardware color to the year it was made as well as any special engraving or features such as gold plating.
When you find out what your serial number means, post it in the comments so everyone can see it!
A list of known fake/reproduction colors for vintage Chanel handbags:
- Black caviar grain with silver hardware = fake
- Burgundy caviar grain with silver hardware = fake
- Black leather with silver hardware = fake
Get all the details:
Find out the material it is made of, what year it was manufactured in, and if there are any special features or engravings on it. When you are trying to purchase a Chanel bag, always ask about every small detail because this way there will be no questions.
Ask for pictures:
Always ask for photos of the bag from every angle and if possible a picture of the serial number.
If they don’t have any then this is either because it’s fake or they just don’t want you to know where it came from. -Don’t buy a purse without asking questions: This means inspecting and doing research on your own about the seller before making a purchase.
If possible try and take measurements yourself to make sure they add up. The height and width should be the same if it’s real. -Ask for a receipt: If you can get a receipt then this will make things much easier for you when you go to sell it later on.
Before buying, look up the model number and use Google to search for any information about that bag’s authenticity. It might be fake if you find lots of information saying as much.
Make sure there aren’t too many sites offering to sell the same bag as well- this means that either they are fakes or the person selling them is (which raises some suspicion as well).
If you do not feel comfortable with their level of knowledge about Chanel handbags, stay away from them since they will only mislead you and may not use proper care when handling your vintage purchase.
When purchasing vintage Chanel handbags, always pay attention to the quality of the leather. Try and feel it for any dryness or cracks because this means that the bag is more than likely, not real.
Make sure there are no bubbles or discolored spots either, as well as rips or tears on both sides of the purse.
Chanel handbags will either have a slight scent of mothballs, due to being stored in boxes for years or no smell at all (real ones).
Make sure you look up images online before saying anything because some people like storing their purses in plastic bags which can make them seem like they don’t have any scent when in fact they do- sometimes fakes even try to copy this.
If the hardware has any dull spots, discoloration, or rust then it is not real- just like you would be careful about buying anything else that had signs of these things happening.
If you are shopping online make sure to look for matching serial numbers on both the zipper and hardware.
The chain strap should always be sturdy and made of silver metal. The actual links in the chain should be soldered together and not simply held by a ring.
The color of the interior leather can vary depending on which collection it is from- if you are unsure then always ask the seller before buying.
Flap Over Closure:
This needs to have “CHANEL” engraved into both sides, without looking too shallow or too deep. Also, make sure that between each letter the space is not too short and not so far apart that they look like two separate words running alongside one another.
If this engraving is missing or looks very blurry, then chances are it could be fake.
Make sure that when you try and zip up the purse that it is very smooth and easy to use. The zipper itself should have “CHANEL” engraved on both sides of it, but not too close to where you grab it or too far apart.
It should be sturdy and always in a color matching the leather- this way there aren’t any leftover pieces of thread sticking out that could get caught on things easily.
Make sure there are no loose or hanging threads anywhere and beware of repaired areas because they can sometimes stand out.
Nowadays Chanel bags tend to be boxy with a very rigid structure whereas vintage ones will look more like an envelope since they used softer leathers which bent easier when they were new.
If you are going for a vintage look then I would recommend only buying ones that have a bit of a curve to them because this will be a sure sign of it being authentic.
A General Rule:
If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is and should not be bought. Vintage Chanel bags in high quality will cost $300-$900 and that is still less than what they would have originally retailed for when they were new.
If someone is selling one for much less than this, see if there are any visible flaws-if there are none, don’t buy it because there must be something wrong with it (repaired but visible stitching or hardware that looks like plastic).
It might seem like a great deal because of how low the price tag is, but it is worth paying a little more and getting an authentic purse.
How to restore a vintage Chanel bag:
If you want to restore your Chanel bag, make sure you know what you are doing- because if not done properly it could damage the purse.
Look up tutorials on how to do this before attempting, as well as read about the materials that should be used. If something doesn’t look right or is missing then chances are that it isn’t real so don’t buy it.
General Buying Tips:
Buy from reputable dealers who sell other vintage designer pieces and can show authenticity certificates for their items.
Ask if they have any piece of information showing where they bought the purse from because sometimes people sell things without realizing what they have is fake or altered in some way.
Be Wary Of Certain Sellers:
If they say anything like “I don’t know if it’s real” then chances are pretty high that it’s not authentic.
Another warning sign is if they only accept cash; means they don’t want a paper trail. -Don’t buy a purse that is a good deal: I know most people love a great bargain, but most Chanel handbags aren’t going to be significantly discounted.
If you see one for 70% off then there is most likely something wrong with it or it isn’t authentic. -Avoid fakes: You might think 5 dollars is a good price for a bag but if the logo is blurred out and misspelled chances are it’s not real.
It can take years of practice to spot all the details on fake bags so make sure to check every last thing before you buy! -Bring someone who knows about bags: This way they can help you determine whether or not it’s real while also supporting your friend!
Keep Your Vintage Chanel in Top Condition:
If your bag is in good condition but just needs a little TLC then you can take it to a reputable purse cleaner. If there are any scuffs on the exterior, try using some kind of leather cleaning solution or cream- this should be an easy fix.
For interior stains, you can use a gentle soap and water mixture to clean it with paper towels or something similar.
Most places that clean handbags will have different solutions for particular types of dirt so always check if they would like you to bring anything in particular along when dropping off your Chanel. Other than that, just keep it away from harsh chemicals!
Now that you’ve read this guide-scour the internet for amazing bags! But don’t let the thrill of finding an incredible deal cloud your judgment.
Take everything into consideration and have fun along the way, after all buying a Chanel bag should be an experience to share with someone special!