So many of us have had that moment when we find a designer bag for sale at a price that feels too good to be true - but we don't always investigate too deeply and buy the bag anyway. A careful look at the workmanship can help tell you if your Coach bag is real or a knockoff, but the real answer is often in the serial number. Coach serial numbers might seem challenging, but we've cracked the code to make it easy.
Finding Your Coach Serial Number
When it comes to genuine Coach bags, both new and vintage, there aren't a ton of hard and fast rules pertaining to their serial numbers.
That said, most Coach bags have a number on them. If you look inside a purse, you'll usually see a "creed," a small rectangular sewn-on leather patch. At the bottom will usually appear the word "No." (the abbreviation for "number,") plus an embossed and possibly also inked number.
Having a serial number isn't always a sign that a bag's authentic. At different periods of time, Coach bags didn't have serial numbers. So, don't toss out a potential Coach just because it's lacking a serial number. Instead, look for other telling characteristics.
How Coach Serial Numbers Have Changed Over Time
There's very few companies that're over 100-years-old that don't change their logos, signatures, and serial numbers at least once in their history. For Coach, there have been some changes over time to their purse's serial numbers.
Coach's earliest bags didn't come with serial numbers; in fact, the first serial numbers didn't appear on Coach purses until the 1970s. At that time, the serial number was three digits long followed by a dash and four more numbers aka xxx-xxxx. This was a true serial number, unique to that particular bag, and didn't contain the style number.
1980s Serial Numbers
In the 1980s, the serial number was four numbers followed by a dash and three digits: xxxx-xxx. This number still didn't signify anything; it was just a unique number for that bag.
Bags Made From 1994 to the Mid-2000s
Starting in 1994, the number on the creed (that big square badge inside the bag) transitioned from being a serial number into a style number. Since then, the number you find on the creed (which is still widely called a serial number) now includes production codes.
Today, the style/serial number can tell you a lot, including:
- The month and year the bag was made
- Where it was made
- The style number
In other words, the serial number was now made up of production codes, before the dash, and style number, afterward. This is the point at which letters started to be used, too, for example.
Here's what your post-1994 bag's serial number may contain: (According to VintageCoachBags.com, F5D-9966 is an example of what this looks like).
- The first digit, a letter, is the code for the month when the bag was made.
- The next digit (which later became two digits) is the year it was made.
- The final digit is the code for the plant where the bag was made.
- Dash, plus the style number
Changes Made in the Mid-2000s
Change kept coming, and included the following:
- The serial number on mid-2000s bags was usually four digits with a dash and four more digits. The last four were the style number. Like this, for example: 8060-9790.
- Around 2006, the style number became five numbers, and the production numbers were four and then five digits, for a total of 10 numbers, such as: M032-P14706 and B1182-16808.
- In late 2014, Coach stopped putting the serial number on the creed altogether and instead placed it on a tiny white tag, usually sewn into a seam in a bottom corner inside the bag or inside an interior pocket. An example of this is G1493-F21227.
Today, occasionally a special edition Coach bag may have a serial number stamped on the creed. For the most part, though, bags have just a five-digit style number on the little white tag.
If you're shopping for Coach purses today, they won't have the same style number formats as those just made a few years ago. Circa 2020, Coach rolled out a new style number format. These new formats go as follow:
- Letter, Four Number Sequence - Letter, Four Number Sequence
- Letter, Four Number Sequence - Four Number Sequence
- Letter, Four Number Sequence - Three Number Sequence
- Letter, Four Number Sequence - Two Letters, Three Number Sequence
Adding Letters to the Serial Number
Sometimes Coach puts a letter at the beginning of the serial number to indicate where the bag was originally sold. This letter typically appears after the hyphen. Don't worry about hunting down a fan-made Coach codex to make sense of these letters; we've decoded them for you.
- F means the bag is made for factory and sold at outlets or an online factory sale
- X, at the top of the creed, means the bag is factory grade and sold at a discount store
- M or N, means the bag was made specifically for Macy's or Nordstrom
- P, at the end of the style number, indicates it's a so-called pilot bag, a product that might never have actually been produced and sold
- A "bullet" or target symbol stamped into the corner of the creed indicates the bag was a full-price boutique bag sold at an outlet at a discount.
Coach Purses Without a Serial Number
Most genuine Coach bags have serial numbers. But aside from vintage Coach bags, there are some Coach products today that don't carry any serial numbers.
- Small stuff - Smaller items, including wallets and pouches, wristlets, cosmetic bags, and other small accessories, don't necessarily have them at all.
- Pre-1980s vintage bags - Vintage bags from before the 1980s often didn't have serial numbers. (Though some do).
- A few '90s pebbled leather bags - Some pebbled leather bags from the 1990s, including Dakotas and some Sheridans, didn't have serial numbers.
Spotting Counterfeit Serial Numbers
Take a trip to any major city and you'll see stalls and stalls full of fake designer handbags. Some are fairly high quality and could be dead ringers for their authentic counterparts, which makes it extremely tough to identify the real thing on the fly.
According to Forbes, it can even be difficult for the company distinguish the real thing at times. Although, they often have both overt and covert ways to tell (such as hidden stitch counts).
While it's tough for us non-experts to identify a counterfeit Coach bag, the serial number contains certain clues that help reveal whether your Coach bag is real vs. fake. Some to look for are:
- No. vs. Number rule - If the serial number doesn't begin with "No.," the abbreviation for "number," then it's probably not authentic.
- Less than seven digit serial numbers - A bag with fewer than seven digits in the serial number is almost certainly a fake.
- Pictures say a thousand words - If you're considering buying a bag from an online consignment store or a marketplace like eBay, ask the seller for a picture of the creed and serial number. If the seller won't send you these pictures, you may want to pass on buying it.
- Less than three digit starting serial numbers - Bags made after 1994 will have at least three digits in the first part of the serial number. If there are only one or two, or there are letters in place of the number, then it's likely a fake.
Authenticating Your Bag and Its Number
For those wondering if there is an official Coach serial number lookup resource, the answer is unfortunately no. Coach doesn't offer authentication services, and according to their website, will not authenticate handbags or other merchandise, nor will they determine whether serial numbers match actual Coach items. They encourage customers to only buy from authorized Coach retailers to ensure they're purchasing a genuine designer bag.
Despite Coach being unwilling to research every authentication claim, there are a few other ways you can try to verify your bag's origin.
Try a Image Search
A quick, though imperfect, way to authenticate any bag that you think dates from 1994 or later is to head to the internet. Simply, enter the serial number into the search bar and see if images that are similar or identical to your bag pop up. If a completely different bag comes up in multiple pictures, then you know the serial was probably stolen off of it and used in your fake.
If the serial number has numbers only, no letters, it's from before 1994; it's a number unique to that particular bag and an image search may not be much help.
Ask the Handbag Community for Help
Another way to find out what the serial number in your Coach bags has to tell you is to turn to online handbag communities. Coach enthusiasts are serious about serial numbers and may have near-encyclopedic knowledge of them. They're usually happy to tell you about your bag's serial number and, if asked, to help authenticate your new or vintage bag. If you can't figure it out on your own, you can try a Coach serial number check by visiting:
- The Purse Forum: In particular The Purse Forum's "Authenticate This" thread specific to Coach, can be helpful to people looking to verify a serial number and authenticate a bag. To get help, you'll need to register to become a member (it's free). If you're curious about an auction listing, you need to include the item, listing number, seller, and any comments about the bag or item. For all other items, you'll need to add the item name if known, link if available, and photos of the item, including a clear, readable image of the creed stamp and serial number, along with the bag's measurements for older or vintage Coach items.
- eBay Community Discussion Board on Fashion: On eBay's fashion discussion board, you can post requests for handbag help on this board, and you may find other members that are very familiar with Coach bags that are willing to help. Give as much detail about the bag as possible, and include photos if you have them along with your specific questions or concerns regarding the serial number. You can also search for past posts on this topic that have been 'Solved' that may help you.
In both of these cases, it's important to remember that none of these enthusiasts are professionals and so their personal statements of authenticity won't hold up in a future sale or auction.
Hire a Handbag Authentication Service
In addition, there are businesses whose sole or primary purpose is to authenticate vintage handbags for a small fee, either solely with photographs or, as an option, in person. Two of these services include:
- Authenticate First: Authenticate First utilizes experts well-versed in designer merchandise to [professionally verify the authenticity of bags and other items. The authentication statements from the company are recognized by PayPal and credit card companies, and they're able to provide Significantly Not as Described (SNAD) certificates individuals may use in claims cases. They offer both in-house authentication for those local to the San Diego area, and they also offer photo authentication that can be done via file sharing or by photo upload.
- Real Authentication: Founded by a group of handbag experts, Real Authentication offers authentication services for Coach bags along with a host of other designer names. The company offers photo authentication services via their contact form online and email, as well as by text for a $30 charge. For upgrades, like quicker turnarounds, check out their website.
Information Needed for Authentication
With both the forums and the business websites, it's important to follow a few general rules if you want to get a good appraisal of your bag. For instance:
- Read the rules carefully. Your request may be denied or ignored if you don't follow the rules.
- Include the desired number, types, and quality of photographs. Since authenticators are relying on photographs, these need to fit the desired specifications.
- Don't forget to include as much information as possible about the bag, such as style number and name, place and date of purchase, link to the purse listing, plus any other details you think would be useful or questions you may have. Simply, the more information you have, the easier your authentication will be.
A Clue to a Handbag's History
It's easy to get so captivated by the fun prints or stylish design that you look right past the little patch of leather with numbers on the inside of your bag. But for any designer handbag lover, you should get into the habit of checking up on your bag's serial numbers. Not only do they prove what you're wearing is real, they can also give you a little insight into the history hanging right on your arm.