With the increasing quality and attention to detail of the counterfeit, black market handbag industry, authenticating pre-owned Chanel bags has become an art and science. It used to be as simple as asking, “does the bag come with an authenticity card?” However, really good fakes, or “super fakes”, come with their own fake but very convincing authenticity cards.
Experts with several years of Chanel authentication experience will look at everything: bag’s quilting, hardware, material choice, stamps and holograms, letter embossing among other things.
If you love Chanel but do not have years of authentication experience, the following is a detailed guide on the science of authenticating Chanel handbags--something you can quickly refer to at home or when you're on the go.
Because authenticating Chanel is also an art that takes years to develop--like recognizing the smell, texture, weight, flexibility and knowing how vintage bags age--we recommend that you always get your bag professionally authenticated, or purchase from a reputable reseller with an authenticity guarantee.
1. Check the Serial Numbers/Date Codes:
You want to know if the bag is the real deal, so what should you do first? If the bag has an authenticity card, skip it. It could very well be fake--there are ways to tell if it’s a real Chanel-issued card, but for counterfeiters it is much easier to make a convincing card than the handbag itself.
Chanel started using the date code system in the mid 1980's. Look inside the bag for a sticker with the serial number. The location of the serial number varies depending on the style of handbag and the year, but unless the bag is very vintage you should always find the date code inside.
It will either look like a sticker on the inside lining of the handbag, or it might be sitting atop a small leather tag sewn into the bag’s interior. Like everything else Chanel does, the date code needs to look the part - if you see a cheaply put-together date code with funky writing, this is a red flag.
Chanel serial numbers vary based on the year the bag was made. Check your serial number against the table below to see when your bag was made:
Caution: Presence of an authenticity card does not guarantee that the Chanel bag is authentic. Cards can be easily counterfeited.
The year the bag was made is determined by the amount of digits in the serial number, and the first digit(s) in that serial number. If your bag has 8 digits, it was produced between late 2005-current.
For 8 digit serial numbers, the year is determined by the first two digits (i.e. 24XXXXXX corresponds to late 2017-early 2018). If your bag has a 7 digit serial number, the year of production is determined by the first digit (i.e. 6XXXXXX corresponds to 2000-2002.)
If the serial number on a bag does not follow the Chanel formula or has more than 8 digits it is most certainly a fake. In rare cases you can find vintage Chanel bags with a 6-digit serial number. Most bags made in 1986 had a 7-digit number starting with zero, but in very early 1986 bags the leading zero was skipped where a 6-digit number started with a 1 or 2.
Chanel’s 2020 date code on their handbags is 30XXXXXX. If your handbag’s date code starts with 27XXXXXX, 28XXXXXX or 29XXXXXX, then it was made in mid/late 2019.
Of course, the Chanel formula is readily available information, so advanced counterfeiters could create a serial number that fits the table above. You need to examine the serial number sticker more carefully: it will never be a plain, boring sticker that looks out of place.
Authentic Chanel serial number stickers will contain a combination of CC logo markings, an ‘X’ shape cut into the tape to prevent removal without damage, and little reflective speckles in the tape.
Caution: If Chanel serial number sticker doesn’t contain either CC logo markings, an ‘X’ shape cut into the tape or iridescent speckles, it could very well be fake.
Look below for some examples of what Chanel serial number stickers should look like.
If you looked everywhere inside the bag and still find no serial number, it's not the end of the world! Remember, these are stickers that are constantly rubbing against the bag's contents, and they can fall off and fade with use. It could also be a vintage authentic Chanel crafted prior to 1986.
Pictured: examples of authentic Chanel date codes. Note how they combine several unique identification and safety features: iridescent speckles, CC logos and 'X' scores on the plastic. They are usually found either on a small leather tab such as in the bottom left example, inside of an interior pocket or tucked into a corner of the bag's interior.
2. Examine the Stitch Quality and Stitch Count:
When you buy Chanel, you’re getting not only the highest grade materials, but also meticulous craftsmanship. The stitching should be flawless, with no loose threads, bumps or otherwise any irregularities.
Chanel bags also feature high stitch count: in most cases there should be 10 or more stitches per edge of the diamond quilting. This keeps the bag sturdy and also prevents puffiness from the leather. Exact stitch count can vary with the type of Chanel bag, but if you see unusually low stitch count, it is likely a fake.
This is not a golden rule, however. You will come across some authentic Chanel quilted handbags with less than 10 stitches per diamond edge - typically smaller bags or styles different from 2.55.
Caution: If the Chanel bag has less than 10 stitches per edge of the diamond quilting, the bag may be a counterfeit.
Get up close and personal with the bag and count the stitches! Chanels have very high stitch count to preserve shape and provide durability. You should count about 10 stitches per diamond edge, but this number can vary with the model.
3. Inspect the Hardware:
Chanel’s hardware is in a class of its own, giving the bag an ultra-luxurious aura. This is where a lot of counterfeiters come up short as they cannot replicate Chanel’s quality.
Even the counterfeiters who are able to use higher quality materials and construction - counterfeit bags known as “super fakes” - they often lack the attention to detail applied to authentic Chanel bags. Here is what to look for.
Open the flap and inspect the back of the CC lock plate. If you confirmed that the bag is vintage based on the serial number, you shouldn’t be surprised to find flathead screws on the lock plate.
The more modern Chanel bags feature proprietary star-shaped screws. If you see philips-head screws, (the ‘X’ shaped ones) you’re dealing with a fake. Chanel never uses philips-head screws in its hardware.
Also be sure that the color of the bag’s hardware (i.e. silver, gold) matches the CHANEL stamping inside the bag.
If you see a “Made in Paris” stamp, the bag is fake. Chanel only uses "France" and "Italy" for its “Made In” stamping.
It is normal to see "CHANEL" and "PARIS" etched into the hardware, however, and counterfeiters will frequently mistake this for the "Made in" stamp. Likewise, if you do not see any “Made in” stamp, beware that the bag is likely a counterfeit!
Caution: If a Chanel bag contains a “Made in Paris” stamp, it is fake.
Pictured: Close up images of Chanel's quintessential leather intertwined chain link strap. The leather should be expertly stitched, with no uneven edges or bumps. With Chanel, the beauty isn't just the silhouette, but also in the finest details.
4. Make Sure that Cs Overlap Properly on the CC Logo:
Always be sure to examine the CC lock, designed by Karl Lagerfeld in the early 1980s. Check that the C's overlap properly, that they have equal width, and flat edges.
Confirm that the right ‘C’ overlaps the left ‘C’ at the top, and the left ‘C’ overlaps the right one at the bottom (pictured above). Next, be sure that the CC lock is centered both vertically and horizontally on its leather flap: if the placement looks off, it is a fake.
Another easy giveaway is that the edges of the ‘C’s are flat on real Chanel bags--if you see rounded edges, it’s a fake. If you see a stamp on the CC lock, it was made in France; if there is no stamp, then the bag was made in Italy. Be sure that the stamp is clear and pristine--fakes will rarely have legible stamps.
Fun fact: Each ‘C’ is equal in width on authentic Chanel bags, and is also equal to the space in between the ‘C’s.
5. Look at the Quilting Pattern and Symmetry:
The most obvious, at-first-glance giveaway of the majority of fake bags you will come across is the quilting pattern. Real Chanel bags are flawless in terms of the quilted diamonds’ shape, symmetry and how they line up.
On Chanel 2.55 Flap bags, check the rear pocket of the bag: with authentic 2.55’s, the quilting pattern on the back pocket will line up perfectly with the pattern of the bag itself.
It is very common for counterfeit Chanel bags to mess up the alignment of the diamond quilting between the flap and the rest of the bag. If you see a blatant misalignment, you can fully disregard the bag as a fake.
Pictured: You can tell a real Chanel bag from a fake by examining the quilting. On the left is a fake bag: the quilting is very obviously not aligned between the pocket and the bag. On the right is an authentic bag: the stitching pattern looks seamless from the pocket to the bag.
Caution: If the quilting pattern on the bag’s back pocket doesn’t line up perfectly, the bag is highly likely to be fake.
It is also important to note that as the bag ages and is worn, the leather will tend to relax slightly and the quilting may not line up perfectly. A bag with this slight imperfection may still be authentic, so be sure to check other areas!
6. Analyze the Zippers Closely:
Zippers are easily overlooked, but be sure to inspect it carefully as the zipper often has many telltale signs of authenticity. Chanel uses different kinds of zippers depending on the bag, but the most notable types are Lampo, the DMC, the YKK, the eclair zipper, the triple 'C' in a circle and an unmarked zipper for very vintage Chanel bags.
Be sure to open and close the zipper and get a feel for the quality. It should zip smoothly and seamlessly - a luxurious experience, like all other aspects of an authentic Chanel bag.
Caution: If you see a zipper that looks like it came from a sweater on a supposedly
real Chanel 2.55, this is more than likely a fake.
Pictured: Lampo zippers that you can typically find on authentic Chanel bags of various types. Check the underside of the zipper pulley mechanism to see the brand.
6 Easy Steps to Authenticate a Chanel Bag:
- Serial Numbers/Date Codes - Validate the serial numbers/date codes based on the year produced. Remember, brand new Chanel bags made in 2020 should have the date code 30XXXXXX
- Stitch Quality and Stitch Count - Validate if the bag has 10 or more stitches per edge of the diamond quilting
- Hardware – The chain must feel heavy in your hand because of its top quality. Screws on the back of the lock plate have to be flathead or proprietary star-shaped on newer bags
- CC Logo - Make sure that the C's overlap properly whether it is hardware or a stitched logo
- Quilting Pattern and Symmetry - Check if the quilting pattern on the bag’s back pocket lines up perfectly
- Zippers - Make sure to check for most commonly used Chanel zippers, such as Lampo, the DMC, the YKK, the Eclair zipper or the triple 'C' in a circle