Louis Vuitton History and Authentication Techniques
Louis Vuitton History:
It all began when a sixteen year old boy by the name of Louis Vuitton, decided to make his move to Paris, France in 1837. There, he began his apprenticeship with Monsieur Maréchal.
As an apprentice, Louis Vuitton quickly become a valued craftsman. Thus, influencing his future career as a trunk master.
After 17 years working at the Parisian atelier of Monsieur Maréchal, Louis Vuitton decided to open his own workshop. That workshop was located at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines near the Place Vendome.
Louis Vuitton become successful early on, which lead him to expand his operations. In 1859, Vuitton opened an atelier in Asnières. At the beginning, the workshop had twenty employees, but by 1900, there were almost 100 employees. In 1914, it jumped to 225 employees working at Asnières.
Through the decades, the atelier was expanded with an addition of the Vuitton family residence. Today, the family residence has been turned into a private museum. While the workshop of Ansières is still being utilized for production.
Through the earlier years of Louis Vuitton's brand, the unpickable lock was created and revolutionized by Georges Vuitton. This lock changed the way travelers locked their trunks. The Vuittons valued their locks so much that they even challenged Harry Houdini to escape from a Vuitton box. While Houdini declined the challenge, the lock's effectiveness is undeniable. Even to this day.
Contrary to popular belief, Louis Vuitton handbags (excluding luggage and rare limited edition pieces) do not have serial numbers. Rather, Louis Vuitton handbags have "date codes" stamped either on interior tags or directly on the interior linings. These date codes simply serve to identify the manufacturing location and date for a Louis Vuitton handbag, not to verify its authenticity. With the exception of early handbags (early 1980s and older), date codes can be found on all Louis Vuitton handbags and other items made by the luxury brand (e.g. sunglasses).
Most date codes are a combination of letters and numbers. The letters indicated the country in which the item was made while the numbers indicate the month/year of the production date. The format of the date codes are as follows:
Keep in mind, that the fact that an item has a date code does not guarantee that it's authentic since many counterfeit items have date codes. A valid and properly stamped date code is just one of many parameters that are checked to guarantee the authenticity of a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Authentic Handbags with No Date Code?
Authentic Louis Vuitton handbags with alcantara linings may have date codes that are very hard to read or have disappeared altogether. This is sometimes the case for older bags or if the bags have had their linings cleaned.
Date code embossed on tag inside a Louis Vuitton handbag.
What Is A Louis Vuitton Date Code?
First things first: all modern Louis Vuitton items have date codes. LV bags do not have serial numbers, instead, Louis Vuitton handbags have "date codes" stamped on interior tags or directly on interior linings or in a hidden location on the exterior of the bag. These date codes serve to identify the manufacturing location and date for a Louis Vuitton handbag, not to verify its authenticity. Louis Vuitton date codes are a combination of letters and numbers. The letters indicated the country in which the item was made while the numbers indicate the month/year of the production date. Note, vintage Louis Vuitton items (pre-1980) do not have date codes, and on some old materials, the date codes may have faded out.
Note that because date codes are not unique serial numbers, meaning multiple items will have the same date code if they were made in the same Louis Vuitton artisan workshops at the same time.
For example, Louis Vuitton may have created 15 Pochette Metis bags in their workshop in France during August (the 34th week) of 2017. All 15 of those Pochette Metis bags would have the same date code printed on a small leather tag in the back zip pocket: FL3147. The date code dissected: FL for France, the first and third number indicate the week 34, and the second and last number indicate 17, the year.
Why Are Date Codes Important For Authenticating Louis Vuitton?
What do date codes have to do with the authenticity of a Louis Vuitton accessory? Well, deciphering the date code of a Louis Vuitton is our first step in authenticating any Louis Vuitton item. A date code tells us the history of the bag. Everything we look at from that point on will be framed around the information date code. Is it the right font? What year is the bag? When is supposed to be made? Does the Louis Vuitton 'Made In' heat stamp correspond with the date code? Was that bag ever produced in that country? Does the production characteristics of the bag match that year?
It's important to note that a date code does not automatically indicate authenticity on a Louis Vuitton item. Many counterfeit items have date codes that match the correct format. Date codes are just one piece of the authenticity puzzle. There are many factors to indicate whether or not a Louis Vuitton item is authentic. Every aspect of the item such as font, size, stampings, symmetry, stitching, hardware, authenticity stamps, as well as overall workmanship and materials are inspected and determined to be consistent with the manufacturer's established standards of quality need to pass a rigorous test in order to be deemed authentic.
Where To Find Louis Vuitton Date Codes
But where exactly are these date codes? Finding a date code on a Louis Vuitton bag isn't easy... They are always tucked away along seams and inside pockets. Get ready to look in every nook and cranny of your LV. If you’re having a hard time locating a date code, here are some tips for finding Louis Vuitton date codes:
• Embossed on a leather tab attached on the interior lining of the bag
• Embossed on a leather tab attached on the interior seam of a pocket
• Stamped on the directly fabric along a seam or pocket edge
• On exterior leather strap close to the strap brass hinge
• In wallets, stamped on the inner edge of bill compartment
• In agendas, stamped under the flap closest to a seam
Common Date Code Locations on Popular Louis Vuitton Bags:
Louis Vuitton Speedy bag: Inside the bag under the pocket, stamped on a leather tab
Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag: Date code is located inside the bag, along the interior edge of the zip pocket, stamped on a leather tab
Louis Vuitton Alma bag: Date code is located inside flat pocket, stamped on a leather tab
Louis Vuitton Artsy bag: Date code is located on the fabric of the lining inside one of the wall pockets or on a vachetta leather tab, typically located on an interior pocket.
Louis Vuitton Date Code Fonts, Colors, and Material
Louis Vuitton has used a variety of fonts throughout the years for date codes to identify the location/manufacture date and to trick counterfeiters. You'll find serif and sans serif fonts on date codes depending on the year and factory location (for example, different Speedy bags have both serif and sans serif date codes).
A single style may have multiple locations of date codes through the years (a Speedy bag may be produced in France, Spain, and USA). A date code may look slightly different depending on whether it is stamped into Alcantra fabric or a leather tab, stamped and colored (as on Epi pieces). This can throw a buyer off in terms of whether the date code looks correct or not, but it's intentional to ward off counterfeiters.
Date Code Formats By Year
Now that you've found the date code on your Louis Vuitton item, how do you decipher it?
Louis Vuitton Date Codes Pre-1980s:
|Louis Vuitton Malltier French Company
no date code (tyvek-like tag only)
|Saks Fifth Avenue
no date code (stamp only)
Louis Vuitton Date Codes in the 1980s:
|3 numbers YYM
832 is February 1983
|4 numbers YYMM
8312 is December 1983
|2 letters 3 numbers LL YYM
TH 831 is January 1983
|3 numbers 2 letters YYM LL
835 TH is May 1983
|2 letters 4 numbers LL YYMM
TH 8312 is December 1983
|4 numbers 2 letters YYMM LL
8310 TH is October 1983
With the growth of the counterfeit market, a variety of date code changes took place in the 1980’s. Beginning in 1982, Louis Vuitton added codes to every item to indicate when and where it was made. In some early bags, the location stamp and date stamp will be separated.
Louis Vuitton Date Codes in the 1990 - 2006:
|2 letters 4 numbers LL MYMY
TH 1920 is December 1990
In the 1990s, Louis Vuitton simplified date codes to one uniform format: 2 letters to indicate location and alternative numbers for the month and year. The first two letters represent the factory location. The first and third numbers represent the month and the second and forth numbers represent the year.
Louis Vuitton Date Codes 2007 – Present
|2 letters 4 numbers: LL WYWY
TH 4166 = 46th week of 2016
In 2007, Louis Vuitton started using weeks in date codes instead of the month. This allowed for them to keep their standard formatting but break their production labeling out into 52 weeks instead of 12 weeks. This means there is more of detailed view of when your bag was produced down to a precise 7-day window. Instead of knowing that your bag was made in France in November, you can now know that your bag was made in the 46th week of that year.
Louis Vuitton Factory Location Codes
Tracking the country of origin on your Louis Vuitton is done by tracking two simple letters. Unlike the date of origin, there are many more exceptions to country codes which can consequently lead to novice mistakes when trying to spot a fake Louis Vuitton date code. While not a complete list, these are codes and the country of origin they typically represent. If applicable, this code will match the "made in XYZ country" stamp that appears elsewhere on Louis Vuitton items.
|A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS (Special Order), AH, AN, AR, AS, BA, BJ, BU, DR, DU, DR, DT, CO, CT, CX, ET, FL, LW, MB, MI, NO, RA, RI, SA, SD, SF, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TJ, TH, TN, TR, TS, VI, VX
|BC, BO, CE, FO, MA, NZ, OB, PL, RC, RE, SA, TD
|BC, CA, LO, LB, LM, LW, GI, UB
|FC, FH, LA, OS, SD, FL, TX
As with any good rule, there are always exceptions to this chart. Take for example the code SD. Depending on the year of origin SD would represent France or San Dimas (city in California, USA). Bags produced after 1995 should say SD with a marking for U.S.A. CA doesn’t represent California or San Dimas but is actually Spain.