The Ultimate Guide to Buying Vintage Chanel Bags

If you’re an avid follower of the blog, you know my motto is to always buy vintage. Whether it’s handbags, jewelry, or clothing, I’d much rather spend my hard earned cash on classic and unique than ‘on trend’ pieces. For example, my vintage Louis Vuitton cannes bag that I’ve had for years is probably the most popular bag I own because no one else has it! My favorite pieces to collect are vintage Chanel, especially bags and jewelry. Over the years, through experience and research, I’ve learned a lot about buying authentic vintage Chanel bags. Any time I walk into a consignment shop, I search for Chanel bags and ask a lot of questions when I find them. Through my own shopping, I’ve fine-tuned the questions to ask and now have a list of resources to use before buying. I get asked frequently what my best tips are for buying a vintage Chanel bag so I’ve pulled together all the intel, info, and tips to help you shop for and buy your own perfect vintage Chanel bag.

buying a vintage chanel bag

Where to buy vintage Chanel bag

Fashionphile. Fashionphile is one of the OG eBay sellers that I trust that has since launched its own online shop and brick and mortar stores in Beverly Hills, San Diego and San Francisco that you can shop in person. They have a great selection of vintage and second hand Chanel bags and are one of the most trusted resale shops.

What Goes Around Comes Around. For nearly 20 years, WGACA has been the go to for rare designer vintage finds and they’re known to have those hard-to-find vintage Chanel bags. While their pricing is on the pricier side, they do have a beautiful and curated collection.

Farfetch. Farfetch is a luxury retailer that recently started selling vintage. They have a great vintage Chanel bag collection and are a reputable seller. Note that their prices are higher since they have done the hard work of finding the most unique vintage pieces to add to their inventory.

Vestiaire. Vestiaire Collective is a curated collection of thousands of new, pre-owned, and vintage luxury items. They check every item to ensure quality and authenticity before it is sent to you. 

eBay. There are thousands of sellers on eBay so you need to really get to know the top sellers that are legit and offer eBay’s authentication guarantee. I have used this service and have always received an authentic bag (cross authenticated by Leather Surgeons or Zeko). You can also check out this list of Chanel resellers, which includes eBay sellers as well as other online retailers.

How to shop for vintage Chanel bag

Shop around. My best tip for buying a vintage Chanel bag is to do lots of research and shopping around before you buy. This not only helps you narrow down the style you want, but also gives you access to various types of bags and prices. Trust your gut and use common sense when shopping. If a certain bag is way underpriced as similar bags on other sites, then it’s likely a fake. If the pricing is pretty consistent, then dig deeper to ensure it’s authentic.

Check the store policy.  Each shop and even each seller on eBay or Fashionphile will have its own return policy, shipping rates, and other specific shopping policy. Be sure to read every store policy before you buy.

Get all the details. Find out everything you can about the vintage Chanel bag including if it comes with the dust bag and box. All resellers should provide an authenticity card or certificate of authenticity. Find out absolutely everything about the bag that you can. If it sounds too good to be true, then maybe it is.

Ask for pictures. Every shop will include pictures, but they may not be exactly what you want, so ask for additional pictures. For example, I always want to see a handbag modeled so I will ask for images with the purse carried as a messenger, shoulder, and also carried as a clutch.

Double check measurements. Pictures can be deceiving and sometimes they make a bag look larger than it actually is. In addition to asking for more pictures, ask for exact dimensions of the bag.

What to look for when shopping for vintage Chanel bags

Leather. Chanel leather bags are offered in lambskin and caviar leather. The lambskin is super supple, while the caviar has texture and is better at hiding scratches. It’s good to know which kind you’re purchasing. As long as an item is priced correctly, don’t hesitate to purchase a bag that needs some TLC. Whether the leather needs cleaning, chain needs polishing, or lining needs to be repaired, you can save money when buying a vintage Chanel bag by picking the not-so-perfect one. One trip to the Chanel Spa or Leather Surgeons, your bag can be repaired to near perfection. Keep reading for my experience with Leather Surgeons and a before and after of my bag.

Stitching. The devil is in the details as they say, so check for a straight stitching pattern. Also, all of the stitching should line up and meet where the flap folds over in front of the bag. If the handbag comes with a small pocket on the backside, then the stitching should line up here as well. If the stitching is crooked and doesn’t line up, then you are most definitely looking at a fake bag.

Authenticity Card & Serial Number. All Chanel bags should come with the authenticity card, have the hologram sticker and they should have matching numbers. Note that bags made before the 1980s don’t have hologram stickers, but anything produced mid-1980s onward should have both a hologram sticker and authenticity card. Beware: Fake bags will come with hologram stickers and authenticity cards! Google the serial number and run a reverse Google image search and see if the number pops up. If it does (and if it’s for an active listing), then you know it’s a fake. Serial numbers are like fingerprints, they are unique to the individual bag.

Check the Cs. On Chanel bags, the CC stitching and CC lock has a distinct pattern: the right C should overlap the left C at the top and the left C should overlap the right C at the bottom.

Authentication of Vintage Chanel bags

Chanel Boutiques do not authenticate bags; I rely on Leather Surgeons or Zeko for authentication of my designer handbags. If you’re buying from an online store that doesn’t offer returns or you’re looking for an online authentication, then turn to The Purse Forum community as a back up. You can submit information, links, and images here and The Purse Forum community will review and authenticate for you. Note that not all requests are answered. TPF is also a good resource for tips for buying a vintage Chanel bag, although you’ll have to read through threads and threads of various comments to find tips.

The Ultimate Guide to Buying CHANEL

How to restore your vintage Chanel bag

No one likes to dish out more money on an already expensive investment, but that’s exactly what a Chanel bag is – an investment. Their value only increases over time, and the more you take care of your bag, the more return you’ll get on it. 

Last year, I realized that my vintage Chanel bag was not looking so fresh. Later that day, the strap gave out and my purse (and everything in it) fell on the street. For anyone who has purchased a vintage luxury purse, you know this specific kind of pain that I felt in that moment. Luckily, I had bookmarked Leather Surgeons ages ago and have always recommended Gerry when anyone asks about authenticating or repairing their luxury bag. I like to think of myself as a luxury handbag connoisseur, but he is the real deal who knows everything about luxury handbags from authentication to repair. Even Chanel and Hermes send bags to him for repair. The “Chanel handbag spa service” offered at a Chanel boutique? It’s really being sent to Gerry for repairs along with an added charge. Cut out the middle man and simply ship your bag to him directly. 

Ask anyone who owns luxury handbags and they will praise Gerry and Leather Surgeons since they really are masters of their craft. It’s the only place I would recommend for restoring your vintage Chanel or any other luxury bag.

In the case of my own bag, my strap broke, the leather was dingy, the shape was crooked, and the gold plating was wearing off. Basically, my bag had never been conditioned and it was starting to show! I completed the quick online form on Leather Surgeons with all of this information and sent it with pictures. After reviewing, Gerry responded with the following about the Chanel bag spa services:

First, we unweave the leather from the chain, then remove and polish all of the hardware before re-plating it in 24 karat gold. This won’t remove every scratch, but will restore the color and shine. Then we go inside the bag to work on its structure. Handbags are built around internal componentry called “stays.” Eventually, they break down or crease, which causes the bag to deform, so we replace the stays to restore the structure and symmetry of the bag. This won’t remove creases or wrinkles from the surface of the leather itself but will improve the overall shape. Next, we thoroughly clean the bag, inside and out, before rehydrating and pH-balancing all of the leather. Finally, we apply pigment (as necessary) to restore the color and luster of the bag, as well as to help conceal any remaining stains. The leather in the chain is then taken through the same process. To re-plate the hardware, reshape the bag, repair the loop and give the piece an overall spa service Leather Surgeons charged me $400. The price includes shipping fees both ways.

This is hefty price tag for sure, but as I said before, a vintage luxury bag is an investment, especially one that is over 30 years old. I plan on giving the bag to Harlee when she’s older, so it needs to be restored in order for it to last at least another 30 years. Lastly, my bag had NEVER been conditioned or anything, so this was a lump sum I had to pay to fix everything rather than sending it off every few years for probably a quarter of the cost.

My Chanel arrived about a month after I sent it to Leather Surgeons looking brand new. It came with a Certificate of Authenticity and it was perfectly packaged in a pretty Leather Surgeons dust-bag. Even though Gerry said the services wouldn’t get rid of scratches and other problems, I couldn’t get over how new my bag looked after their services. That being said, I’ll likely send my Louis Vuitton Cannes bag to him for a quick spa date (it just needs to be conditioned) in the next year.

chanel bag restoration

Tips for keeping your vintage Chanel in top condition

Condition it regularly. Rather than paying a lump sum on damage that had occurred over years, take care of your purse by conditioning it right when it becomes yours. This way, it’s less likely to scratch and will stay in better condition, for longer. Chanel SA recommend Cadillac Leather Conditioner Set.

Restore it completely. Once you do decide to have it restored, get everything done in one visit. There’s no use in only fixing a strap when the leather is in need of a polish and your hardware needs to be re-plated. Don’t let a price tag deter you from handling it then and there, your wallet will eventually thank you for it. 

Use a reputable source. I had done extensive research about where to send my vintage Chanel because I know that a lot of places can rip you off or not handle your bag with as much care. Knowing that Chanel and Hermes, the brands themselves, send all of their bags for repair to Gerry gave me peace of mind that is worth far more than the price tag of a ‘spa day’ for my bag. 

Thank you for reading.

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