How to authenticate Coach bagsJuly 7, 2011
If there is a place to come into contact with a large number of designer bags, authentic and counterfeit alike, it is among Goodwill’s donations! Coach is one of the designer brands I see most frequently, from Cashin-era all the way up to this season’s styles (OK…maybe last season’s). Thousands of bags later, I have picked up several ways to help determine the authenticity of Coach bags, and I’d like to share a few tips and illustrative photos.
- First, know that some counterfeit bags appear to be nearly perfect and some authentic bags may seem a little imperfect.
- It is important to familiarize yourself with Coach products in person. Visit a Coach store or authorized Coach retailer and learn how they feel and what they tend to look like. At least 50% of the counterfeit bags I see are obviously counterfeit due to clearly inferior quality.
- Coach uses various types of leather, but something they all have in common is that they are of a nice quality. Coach leather is not stiff and doesn’t look or feel like plastic. Unless it has been severely mistreated and dried out, it does not crack or seem to be damaged if folded in half. Coach leather is also not paper thin and prone to peeling (though some is easy to scuff).
- Different varieties of leather – pebbled and suede, notably, obviously feel different. Pebbled leather (like what D&B uses in all-weather bags) feels slightly firmer, for example. If the leather feels different (not bad-quality different, just different) don’t decide the bag is fake immediately.
Signature bag fabric
- In signature bags, the C pattern is properly aligned.
- The pattern should be straight and symmetrical with a pair of C’s starting in the middle and the rest of the pattern mirroring outward, with a few exceptions like the Scribble or patchwork bags.
- Coach tries to connect the signature fabric at seams in ways that look attractive instead of messy. This by no means happens all the time, but if it has in your bag’s case, it is a good sign.
- Older/classic Coach bags are largely unlined and can look unpolished inside. I see leather edges that look a bit messy as well as dye lines inside at the edges or underneath the pocket near the seam, where the bag color stops and the natural color of the leather can be seen.
- Newer style bags are lined with various fabrics in solid colors, stripes, signature, logo, tattersall, and other patterns; again, the fabrics are of a nice quality, so fabric that feels cheap suggests counterfeit. There is a low-quality thin satin/acetate lining (sometimes with the Coach logo repeated on it) I’ve noticed in several fake bags. I’ve also noticed a signature lining that feels notably thinner than what Coach actually uses.
- With few exceptions, signature bags do not have signature lining. Some bags, like quilted bags with signature patches can still have signature lining.
- Stitching can be a helpful tool when trying to determine authenticity, whether in person or from a photograph. It can be easier to see the quality of stitching in a photograph than it is to see leather quality.
- For the most part the stitching of Coach bags is neat and even without major flaws like skipped stitches, wandering/sloppy lines, and asymmetry.
- Coach is not perfect. They sometimes sew an uneven stitch, especially notable on older bags, so don’t let a small flaw rule the authenticity of a bag out completely. Just keep it in mind as you look at other things.
- The Coach creed is stamped into leather, either in front of the interior pocket in an unlined bag, or on a leather square that has been stitched into the lining of a lined bag. Some newer bags have the creed printed in “handwriting” style font in metallic ink or a regular font in metallic ink instead of stamped into the leather.
- The creed in an authentic bag has no misspellings, typos, or words running into each other.
- Creeds are not consistent in every way. Some are stamped a little more lightly than others (though they should always, always be readable), some have a different font size, some have justified alignment with weird spacing, some have left alignment, some center the last line, etc. It seems to depend on the country of manufacture, the age, and probably the factory.
- Some smaller Coach items do not have creeds, like wristlets, wallets, pouches, cosmetic cases & other small accessories.
- The number on the creed is not a proper serial number on post-1994 bags; rather, these numbers represent the month, year & place of manufacture (before the dash) and the style (after the dash).
- Some older bags did not have numbers, just the creed.
- Each style is assigned its own style number, so if your bag was made 1994 or after (or you suspect it was), look it up. It may still be on Coach’s website, so start there. If it isn’t, do a google search for “Coach” and the style number (the numbers after the dash). This will usually give you some product search results or images. If the sellers or websites are trustworthy* compare your bag to the one in the photo. You can also search on purseforum.com’s Coach board, where the people are knowledgeable and may have had a past discussion about the bag you are researching.
- Vintage and uncommon bags can be difficult to find images of because vintage bags do not have a style number and uncommon bags are uncommon. It may be best to simply ask about it on purseforum.com if you can’t find any information at all and all other signs point to authentic bag.
Hangtags, dust bags, price tags, cards & other accessories
- Hangtags are not reliable for authentication as they are removable, nor are the rectangular hangtag or the lozenge hangtag reliable for authentication. There are fake hangtags on real bags, real hangtags on fake bags, missing hangtags, replacement hangtags, and real hangtags that look fake (Coach has used many variations over the years and many do not scream “high quality!”). If you authenticate a hangtag you have only authenticated the hangtag, not the bag it is attached to.
- Price tags, cards, dust bags, and any other accessory or paperwork can be faked, and sometimes real paperwork & accessories accompany a fake bag. Fake paperwork most often means fake bag. One way to identify paperwork as fake is by finding misspellings, typos, missed spaces, odd wording & other such issues.
- Real paperwork, dust bags, etc do lend a bit of credibility to a bag but cannot be relied on as proof of authenticity. You must check everything else as well.
- MYTH: a fake fob means a fake bag – untrue!
Zippers & hardware
- Zippers sometimes move smoothly but sometimes don’t, so don’t let the latter throw you off completely.
- YKK, Talon, riri, and Falcon are the zipper brands I most often see in Coach bags. Some of the older zippers (like Falcon) are marked underneath so the marking is hard (but not impossible) to see.
- When I have encountered bags with generic zippers on both the outside and inside the bags turned out to be fake, ultimately - however, it is not unusual for exterior zippers to be unbranded.
- Of all Coach bags I’ve seen with COACH zipper pulls, they have been counterfeit. I have read that some authentic bags have had COACH embossed zipper pulls, but the ones in the photos are those I often see on fakes.
- Many modern bags have the Coach logo imprinted on the hardware. It is sometimes subtle – on the inward-facing side of a buckle, for instance. The logo need not be on every piece of hardware or even the majority. Sometimes it might only be on one thing, and sometimes there are none at all.
- The shape of the hardware is important to pay attention to. Some differences are very obvious if you pay attention.
MYTH: all authentic Coach bags have YKK zippers – untrue!
Country of manufacture
- Most modern Coach bags are made in China, not the USA. The country of manufacture appears in the creed, but there are sometimes fabric tags sewn into the lining as well.
- I have seen authentic Coach bags made in the USA (some specifically marked New York City), China, Turkey, Costa Rica, Mexico, Italy, India, Hungary and the Dominican Republic. There may be others as well.
- Coach bags are not made in Korea.
*Reliable sources include Coach.com, authorized Coach retailers, purseforum.com, and other well-known/respected businesses and collectors. Reliable sources do not include websites that sell “replica” merchandise. Some individuals who sell Coach on eBay and other sites can be trusted to have authentic Coach that you can compare yours to, but many sell counterfeit items – use common sense and take care who you listen to.
NOTE: these tips are based on my own – that is to say, one Goodwill employee’s experiences and are not comprehensive, nor are they affiliated in any way with Coach. If you see something that is inaccurate please feel free to leave a comment!