Chanel handbags are very much in demand. Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel's designer, is one of the icons of the fashion industry, blending art and fashion in his designs. Because of Chanel's high profile and the price tag associated with their product (the average price of a Chanel bag at the present time is $2000 or more), their handbags are widely counterfeited.
Previously, counterfeit bags were easy to spot, at least to a trained eye. Over time, however, the counterfeiters have upped their game, using better materials and studying authentic bags in order to get the details correct. They also consult guides like these to learn what they have still got wrong, so they can correct it (I cringed when sellers starting photographing the Lampo zippers on Chanel bags and putting them in their listings--up to that point, that was one detail the counterfeiters did not seem to know about).
For all of these reasons, counterfeits are getting harder and harder to distinguish from the authentic bags. One of the last remaining details buyers can look to as proof of authenticity is the hologram tag and matching authenticity card. However, as you might have guessed, the counterfeiters have gotten fairly adept at copying those too.
Chanel began including labels and authenticity cards in their bags after Karl Lagerfeld signed on the mid 1980s. There is an older style label, which was used for several years. I believe Chanel switched to current format of hologram at around the 5 or 6 series (someone please correct me if I am wrong--I am getting old and I don't remember anymore). I have very little experience with bags pre-Lagerfeld, so I am not sure what, if anything, they had with respect to serial numbers.
The current series of serial numbers begins with 12. Chanel uses a series for 2-3 years, so we should be on 12-series bags for another year or so. You can, as a result of the number system, tell the approximate age of a bag by its serial number.
Once upon a time, people believed that if a bag had a hologram tag and authenticity card, it was authentic. Now, however, almost all counterfeit bags have counterfeit hologram tags and counterfeit labels. Authentic bags, on the other hand, have lost the authenticity card, and sometimes the label. Therefore, the mere presence or absence of the label or card does not indicate authenticity or the lack of authenticity.
Nonetheless, unless you have studied Chanel bags, or you are buying from very reputable seller, the card and hologram are some of the best proof you have of authenticity. Without giving too much away (I am not going to give specific details, because I don't want to help the counterfeiters), I am going to try to point out how to tell an authentic card and hologram from a counterfeit one. Hopefully this will help prevent others from being sold something less than an authentic bag.
Here is a photo of the old-style hologram. It has a seven-digit number, and gold Chanel logos scattered on either side of the number (this one is faded, so you can't see them well). This label is sometimes counterfeited, but not as often as the newer style. Because this label is from older bags, it is frequently rubbed, torn, or darkened (hence the problem with getting a photo of a pristine one).
This is an authentic hologram tag from a 10-series Chanel handbag. It has the 8 digit number code (older bags have 7 digits), with Chanel written down the right side, and a black bar on the left. It is cut into segments such that it can not be removed intact from the bag and placed in a counterfeit item.
This is the matching authenticity card. It has a matching number, and then statements certifying the authenticity of them item given in three languages (English, German, Japanese).
This is a pair of hologram tags from 11-series bags. Both have 8 digit serial numbers, Chanel written down the right side and the black line on the left. One of these is authentic, and one is a copy. Can you tell which is which? (Look hard, and I will tell you below).
These are the matching authenticity cards. Both have the serial number, with the statement about authenticity in three languages. Which one is the authentic one? (I will tell you below).
This is a "freebie." This is a fake hologram and tag photographed together. The orientation of the writing is incorrect on this hologram tag (the writing is on the top and bottom not on the sides), and this label is not scored, whereas an authentic label would be.
For the hologram tags above, the authentic tag is the one on the bottom. The tag on the top is a very very good counterfeit. You will note that if the tag is used on a black background, it is difficult to make out the "Chanel" and the black line, but they are there. If you look closely, you will notice that the fonts used on the two labels are different. The counterfeit card has slightly thicker numbers. Also, some of the numbers are a different shape than those on the authentic card.
As regards the authenticity card, the authentic card is also the one on the bottom. Again, the fonts on the two cards are different, and the font used on the counterfeit card is thicker than that on the authentic card. Again, the numbers on counterfeit card are a different size and shape than those on the authentic card.
There are some other differences you may see if you look closely, but I don't want to be too specific here, lest I inadvertently help the enemy. However, in general, I would study the shape and size of the numbers on the authentic tag and card and learn to recognize them. It is still one of the ways we can identify authentic bags in photographs.
Here is a close-up of the numbers on a genuine Chanel authenticity card. Compare the font and shape of the numbers to those on the counterfeit card above. Some of this requires close attention to detail, but as with everything, the devil is in the details.
As a bonus, you can see the interior Chanel labels from these two bags. You will note that the font is also not quite correct on the counterfeit label (again the one on top). In general, I have found the fonts on counterfeit bags on everything from the hologram to the hardware to be incorrect.
The bottom line is that the mere presence of a hologram and authenticity card does not indicate authenticity. You really have to look at the details.
WHILE WE ARE MYTH-BUSTING... let me correct some misinformation in another guide on Chanel by another ebayer. There is a guide that many people have read that states:
1. Chanel does not make handbags out of lambskin
2. Chanel bags are made in Italy not France.
Now, I don't know where this ebayer got these ideas, but both are categorically, unequivocally FALSE.
Chanel makes bags out of lambskin and calfskin. The classic 2.55 is made of lambskin, as is the ultimate soft line, and many of the softer bags. The Cambon line is (as that guide stated) made of calfskin as are numerous other bags. Chanel also sometimes uses deerskin, buffalo, goatskin (the Luxury Line bags for example) and all sorts of other leathers and furs.
Chanel bags are also made in BOTH France and Italy. Typically, all of the bags of the same style will be made in the same place, but there are some of the widely made classic bags that might be marked either France or Italy, even in the same season.
HOPE ALL THAT HELPS...
AND NOW A GENERAL WARNING...
TWICE IN THE PAST TWO WEEKS I HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY EBAYERS ASKING IF THEY COULD BUY MY PHOTOS TO USE IN THEIR OWN LISTINGS. THEY OFFERED ME $100 CLAIMING THEY HAD THE SAME BAG BUT NO CAMERA.
WE WILL LEAVE ASIDE THE ISSUE OF THE IMPROBABILITY OF THIS SCENARIO AND GET TO THE POINT. COUNTERFEITERS, WHO USED TO SIMPLY STEAL PHOTOS OF AUTHENTIC BAGS TO LIST THEIR FAKE JUNK, HAVE DECIDED TO BUY THESE PHOTOS INSTEAD, SO THEIR LISTINGS ARE NOT PULLED FROM EBAY.
IT IS A VIOLATION OF EBAY RULES TO USE SOMEONE ELSE'S PHOTOS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION, SO THEY HAVE DECIDED TO BUY THIS PERMISSION.
NOW I WOULD LIKE TO THINK THAT PEOPLE SELLING AUTHENTIC HANDBAGS WOULD REALIZE IT IS DISHONEST TO MAKE SUCH A BARGAIN, AND THAT IT IS NOT IN THEIR INTEREST OR THE INTEREST OF THEIR BUYERS. HOWEVER, I AM A REALIST, WHICH MEANS I KNOW SOME PEOPLE ARE GOING TO GO ALONG.
THIS MEANS THAT YOU, THE BUYER, MUST BE EXTRA, EXTRA CAREFUL. YOU WILL NOTE THAT I ALWAYS PHOTOGRAPH MY ITEMS IN THE SAME ONE OR TWO PLACES IN MY HOUSE. MOST REPUTABLE SELLERS DO LIKEWISE. I WOULD RECOMMEND CHECKING A SELLER'S PAST AND CURRENT LISTINGS TO SEE IF THE ITEMS WERE PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE SAME PLACE.
YOU CAN ALSO LOOK FOR THE "MY POUPETTE" RECOMMENDED SELLER SEAL (AND ALWAYS CLICK THE LINK TO CHECK IT AGAINST MY POUPETTE'S LIST). YOU KNOW YOU WILL GET AN AUTHENTIC ITEM IF YOU BUY FROM ONE OF THESE SELLERS.
IN GENERAL, JUST BE CAREFUL. YOU WORK TOO HARD FOR YOUR MONEY TO BE SCAMMED OUT OF IT.
For a good guide on other details of Chanel handbags, consult Burberry Princess' guide to authentic Chanel. You have to purchase this guide, but contact her for details.
May I also recommend my guide to authentic Dior handbags.
If you have specific questions about authenticity, you may post an inquiry to the "authenticate this" thread of the Chanel discussion at The Purse Forum. I am not a member, but I have a friend who is, and she says they are fabulous.
You may also consult me by viewing one of my active listings, selecting "ask seller a question" and choosing the authenticity option. If it concerns an ebay listing, please give me the listing number. I am happy to answer and help when I can.
Remember never buy fakes. It's illegal. It also supports terrorism, organized crime, sweatshop labor, and I think it is just bad taste. Authentic bags are made of quality materials by people paid a decent wage. If taken care of, they last forever, and they look good forever too. If you can't or don't want to buy new (and pay new prices), then buy used; it's a chic form of recycling and the planet thanks you.
IF YOU FOUND THIS GUIDE HELPFUL, PLEASE VOTE "YES" TO IT. PEOPLE SEARCHING WILL SEE THOSE GUIDES WITH THE MOST VOTES FIRST. SOMETIMES COUNTERFEITERS VOTE "NO" ON THESE GUIDES TO PREVENT PEOPLE FROM SEEING THEM.