"Oh, NO! You're giving away all of our Date Code secrets!!!"
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Yes, I do know that there are many sellers and online groups of Louis Vuitton enthusiasts who'd rather me discuss Louis Vuitton date codes freely and openly. You see them on eBay all the time. They blur out their date code pictures or tell you that the date code will only be "revealed" to the highest bidder to protect this apparently safely guarded secret. However, these codes are freely discussed all over the internet on Louis Vuitton blogs and discussion boards and are reproduced in any number of Louis Vuitton buying guides that you can purchase on eBay or the internet.
The fear is that counterfeiters would use this information to "find out what we know" and will use this information to make more accurate fakes. Let's face it... for fake Louis Vuitton bags to be as "good" (close to the real deal) as they are today, the criminals behind them are well funded and sophisticated. These thugs not using pictures that they see on the internet as patterns for their fakes. They are buying real bags, tearing them carefully apart and trying as best as they can to make exact replicas. Everything from the logos, the linings, hardware and yes, even the sacred date codes are closer and closer to the real thing.
Trust me, if Louis Vuitton wanted to, they could use a hologram (like Chanel) or an individual serial number code inside their bags- if they intended their labeling to be used as authentication. But, for whatever reason, they have never chosen to do that. Louis Vuitton includes these numbers for their own "internal purposes": so that they can tell when the bag was made and where. That's it. Hermes uses a similar marking in that, they are not serial numbers, nor are they holographic. They are not enough for authenticity purposes- to rely on.
So basically, when it comes down to it... I'm more worried about each of you- the honest buyers of authentic Louis Vuitton. You are just trying to get an authentic Speedy or Cabas Mezzo or Neverfull at less than retail. You're not buying the $79.95 Buy it Now NWT "Louie" Vuitton on eBay (clearly not authentic)... and to some degree, date codes can be helpful to you.
Vintage Louis Vuitton- No Date Codes
Like I just mentioned, Louis Vuitton has only used date codes since the early 1980s. The Keepall was introduced in 1930 and the Noe in 1932. This means that for decades- Louis Vuitton small leather goods were made without date codes. It is very common to see vintage items (pre early 80's) without a date code. These bags may have other Louis Vuitton markings, but will not have a code. With vintage, you must know the to know the style and when introduced, etc. Then, inspect the brass Louis Vuitton hardware, the lining, the leather and stitching for authenticity. Again, it is very common to find authentic Louis Vuitton vintage pieces without a date code at all. Here is the embossing on a vintage card holder that bore no date code:
Vintage Louis Vuitton French Company pieces- No Date Codes
During a period from the 1970's through about 1991- Louis Vuitton maintained a licensing relationship with The French Luggage Company here in the United States. if you'd like to learn more about this period. French Company for Louis Vuitton pieces have different markings than their International counterparts. They also do not have date codes. They would often have French Company tags and/or markings from Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus. For example:
Early 80's: Three or Four Numbers
Louis Vuitton Date Codes in the early 80's consisted of only three or four numbers representing the month and year that a particular item was manufactured. Here is an example of such a date code from an authentic
You can clearly see the number 821 embossed right in the leather. This vintage clutch was made by Louis Vuitton in January of 1982. Note that the first two numbers represent the year, and the last number represents the month.
Obviously, if the month were October, November, or December... the last number would actually be two numbers... so a Pochette Dame made in November of 1982 would have the date code 8211.
In these early days, a date code was just that. A date code, a number that could give you the approximate date when a particular piece was manufactured.
Late 80's: Three or Four Numbers and Two Letters
Later on in the 80's, Louis Vuitton began to use a "production code" that consisted of the same three or four numbers as above, followed by two additional letters. The letters represent an abbreviation of the "workshop" or factory where that particular item was manufactured. Louis Vuitton (and all of us) could then use this number and letter combination to determine where and when any particular was made.
Notice the code above- 874 VX. I know that the VX suffix represents a workshop in France. So, I know that this vintage piece of luggage was made in France in April of 1987. (You can see the production code below to find out more about the letters representing different workshops).
Late in the 1980's... Louis Vuitton began using 4 numbers to represent the date- the first two for the year, the second two for the month, followed by two letters. Take a look:
This vintage has a date code 8902 ET. So we know that this piece was also made in France, but in February of 1989.
For the vintage Speedy, Louis Vuitton actually split up the two parts of the date code... so that the numbers were on one side of the leather tabs and the letters were on the other, like this:
You can see the date code above was 893 on one side and FC on the other.
Late 80's to early 90's: Two Letters then Three and Four Numbers
During the late 80's and for sure by 1990, at least some Louis Vuitton production codes had taken a new format... (Notice they may still have had the previously discussed numbers followed by letters format- or may have taken on this new format during these few years...) Take a look at this example from 1987:
OK, so there you can see the new format- MI 873. As I said, date codes in the late 80's through early 90's can go back and forth between these formats depending on the factory from whence the item was manufactured. This vintage monogram Papillon was from France and was made in March of 1987.
By 1990, another change had taken place. Not only were the two letters first, but Louis Vuitton was alternating the numbers for the date as follows.
Obvioulsy, this code makes no sense with the older formatting of the first two numbers being the year, the second one or two being the month. With that system, the bag above is made in 2009, in the 60th month. This makes no sense.
But in 1990, Louis Vuitton began to stagger the year and the month. The first and third number represent the month, and the second and fourth number represent the year. This is the method that was used through December of 2006 (scroll below for January 2007 updated). Here are some examples:
It could be on a vachetta or other colored leather tab (this was from a )like this:
Or it could be just embossed in the lining like this (notice there is some charcoal grey color to the embossing (never black)...
A date code might also be found embossed on the D-ring like on this Cabas Mezzo:
When the embossed date code is in alcantara lining, it can be very hard to read. It helps to know exactly where it should be, and either examine carefully outside or with a flash light. (You can check our , an online file of most of the bags we've ever sold. We include multiple pictures of most bags and include pictures of where the date codes are located...) I have seen bags where the alcantara linings have seen enough wear that the date code is basically impossible to make out- although you can often tell that something had been there. Here is the date code in a Louis Vuitton Monogram Viva Cite MM:
January 2007: Date Code changes to weekly format.
Again, for whatever reason, Louis Vuitton made another change to the date code format beginning in January 2007. You will still find the same two letters followed by four number format, however instead of using the staggered month and year, Louis Vuitton is now using a staggered Week of the Year and Year formula... so that... a date code that says SD 1037 is not a bag that was made in the thirteenth month (an impossibility) of 2007, but is a bag that was made in the 13th week of the year 2007- so early March of 2007. Here is an example:
Why are the letters important?
Louis Vuitton has been manufacturing outside of France for years- through it's partnership with the US based "The French Company" (if you're interested). Not only that, but Louis Vuitton had a factory in Spain and soon had one of their own in San Dimas, California.
This is very interesting for authentication purposes because as I mentioned earlier, the two letters correspond with the country of production. So, if a bag has a date code with the CA pre-fix... I know for sure, that that bag is made in Spain. You want to be sure that a bag that you are looking to purchase, has a date code- with a prefix for a country of origin that matches the embossing on the bag that says where it's made. (Made in USA, France, Spain etc.)
So, If I have a bag, with a date code with the CA prefix, and it has embossing that says, "Made in USA" or "Made in France"... I know that at the very least I need to really scrutinize that bag for authenticity. There are a few reasons why a bag could have a US date code and be Made in France... (for example, if the lining has been redone, the date code may be very new, so a bag that was made in 1998 in France could end up with a USA, 2006 date code, if it had been repaired in the United States). If the location doesn't match the letters in the production code, this is just definitely a reason to get a second look at the bag.
Please note that most newer fakes have accurate date codes. If you know that a date code does not "make sense", it's either a red flag- or totally fake. If it's right, you need to authenticate the rest of the bag.
Country Codes Defined and Explained
France: A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS (in special order), AN, AR, AS, BA, BJ, BU, CO, CT, DK (in repairs) DU (in special order), ET, FL, LW, MB, MI, NO, RA, RI, SD, SL, SN, SP, SR, TH, VI, VX
USA: DK (in repairs), FC, FH, LA, OS, SD, FL
Spain: CA, LO, LB, LM, LW,
Italy: BC, BO, CE, FO, MA, RC, RE, SA, TD
Switzerland: DI, FA
I'll add more they come into production.
Good Luck in your search for authentic pre-owned luxury Louis Vuitton