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Alliebean's Guide to
Buying Authentic Coach Purses on eBay

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not difficult to buy an authentic Coach purse on eBay. In fact, there are wonderful deals to be had if you exercise a little caution and follow a few basic rules. There are, however, numerous counterfeit purses, wallets and keyrings on eBay.This guide is intended to help you avoid buying one of the counterfeits.

It would be impossible to tell you how to identify each and every counterfeit Coach item on the market although some of them are so blatantly fake it would be amusing if it wasn't a federal crime to sell them. The trick to safe buying lies not so much in being able to tell an authentic Coach from a few small, and often poor quality photographs, but in learning to recognize the red flags that are usually present in 'counterfeit' auctions.

First of all, a few words about Coach

  • Coach doesn't sell through 'middlemen'. Ever. Coach items are sold through Coach stores, Coach factory stores, authorized retail locations such as department stores and the Coach website.
  • Coach does not sell 'seconds' and never has. If you see someone selling a 'second' you'll know it's counterfeit.
  • Coach factory stores sell overstocks, past season stock and items manufactured specially for them. All items sold in Coach Factory Stores are perfect. Factory Store items can be easily identified by the 'bullseye' - a circle within a circle - imprinted on them.
  • Coach items are manufactured in Italy, Hungary, Turkey, Costa Rica, China, the Dominican Republic and several other countries.

Don't let the numbers fool you.
  • Coach started using serial numbers in the '70s but it wasn't until 1994 that they implemented a standardized numbering system and entered the numbers into their database.
  • The current numbering system varies by country but is consistent in that the second set of numbers denotes the style name. For example in the serial number J8B 9790, 9790 is the style number of the City Bag.
  • Don't be fooled by the fact that a bag has a creed and serial number. This is no guarantee of authenticity. It is very simple for counterfeiters to copy creeds and serial numbers although they often have spelling errors.
  • Buyers with concerns are frequently advised to call Coach with a serial number in order to have a bag authenticated. This is wrong advice. If the bag was made in 1994 or later, Coach can look up the style number and tell you the style name. They can not tell you whether the bag is authentic or not.

A hangtag is just a tag that hangs
  • Don't be influenced by the fact that a bag has a hangtag. Hangtags are easily reproduced.
  • Don't be influenced by the fact that the hangtag on the bag you are considering is not the same as the ones on other bags that you have seen.
  • Coach has produced many different hangtag styles, some single-sided, some double-sided, some with raised edges, some without. And, even if genuine, the hangtag may be a replacement and therefore newer than the bag.

All that the wonderful information above tells us is that you cannot authenticate a bag by the country of origin, the serial number, the creed or the hangtag. An expert will, however, consider all of these details and several others such as stitching, type of hardware, and the font on the creed, when determining authenticity from photographs.

There are two basic categories of Coach bags:
  • The classic all-leather bags, some of which are still being made. These styles are much less frequently counterfeited , although I have seen some glaring examples of counterfeit 'pleather' bags.
  • The more recent signature, scribble, dot and patchwork styles which, unfortunately, are heavily counterfeited. And, while the marks of a counterfeit are all too obvious to the trained eye, they frequently go unnoticed by the inexperienced buyer.

So, what to do?

If you are looking for a particular style, you can educate yourself. Go to a Coach store or visit their website. Find out what sizes, styles and colors it is made in. Counterfeiters frequently make a style in the wrong color or size. The best defense, however, is to educate yourself about the seller and the auction. Familiarize yourself with these 'red flags' and check for them before you bid:

Red Flags:
  • The seller does not accept Paypal . Unless you use Paypal, you do not have buyer protection.
  • Seller is registered in Asia. Most counterfeits are manufactured in Asia. Asian sellers have also been registering on eBay UK to avoid detection.
  • Seller has multiples of the same item. As Coach does not sell to middlemen, this would be unlikely.
  • Seller just registered. Dishonest sellers frequently register under new Ids when they are suspended.
  • Poor feedback. Feedback below 98% is considered poor. Check the feedback for counterfeit issues and failure to deliver the item.
  • Lack of detailed or close-up photographs. Sellers who sell counterfeits do not want you to see details of the item.
  • Stock photographs. Coach does not authorize the use of photographs from it's website. Any seller using them is violating copyright laws.

Any of the above points, taken alone, may not indicate a problem. A seller who doesn't accept PayPal may just be saving on fees. Poor photographs may just mean a poor photographer or camera. But a combination of the above should raise a flag. Learn to look at the overall picture.

Helpful links:
  • I always have a large collection of classic and vintage Coach purses in my eBay store. You can compare the pictures and details to purses you are considering bidding on by clicking here or just bookmark as a resouce.
  • The eBay discussion board Shoes, Purses and Fashion Accessories has many members who can identify counterfeit items or help with a problem. Just remember that they are volunteering their time and giving a personal opinion which may not always be accurate. Although you are not allowed to post a link to current auctions or post the item number (unless you have already purchased it) they will be able to advise you.

I hope this guide has been helpful. I am an avid Coach collector with a huge collection of classic and vintage purses, many of which were bought on eBay. Unfortunately there will always be counterfeit purses on eBay. But, if we educate ourselves, and take reasonable precautions, there are also wonderful bargains to be had. So do your homework and enjoy all that eBay has to offer!