How To Tell The Age of Your Louis Vuitton Trunk
Here, we will discuss proper ways of identifying the age and authenticity of your vintage Louis Vuitton trunk. It is a fun and exciting task to uncover the mystery of your trunk. Learn how to look for authentic characteristics of real Louis Vuitton trunks, from people who have been in the vintage trunk business for decades.
A Brief History of Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in France. At the age of 13, he left home on foot, headed for Paris. He took odd jobs along the way, finally reaching the city at the age of sixteen. He was mesmerized by the grandeur and magic of the city, and soon found work apprenticing for a box maker and packer.
This was a respectable trade, and Vuitton learned the art of packing and creating custom luggage. He quickly established a reputation for his skills as a malletier, and by his early thirties, he was appointed the official box-maker and packer for Napoleon III’s wife. The rest, they say, is history.
Vuitton is credited for his ingenuity and creative skills that allowed him to think outside of the box (pun intended), which he acquired as a professional packer. Most of the trunks of the time had a rounded top (think pirate’s chest), that were created to maximize rain runoff. However, this design was not practical for stacking and storing trunks on steam trains or transatlantic cruises. That is when Vuitton created his revolutionary design of trunks that were rectangularly shaped- ideal for transport.
The Dawn of an Era: The LV Monogram
Most people don’t realize that the Louis Vuitton company began in 1854. Long before purses, shoes, and wallets, Vuitton established his high standards of quality and execution as a malletier (trunk maker). His unwillingness to convert his production methods to the mass machine production lines set him apart from other trunk makers, who now have been lost to the annals of history.
The iconic Louis Vuitton pattern was not introduced until 1896 by Georges Vuitton, nearly four years after Louis Vuitton’s death. The pattern was influenced by the design of the orient, as seen by the rosettes and quatrefoils. The purpose of this design was to make the products nearly impossible to counterfeit. The locks were patented and advertised as completely burglar proof. For Vuitton, it was all about the details.
Before the Monogram
The first Louis Vuitton trunks in 1854 were made with gray canvas, or “gris trianon,” that was covered in hemp oil. These trunks are usually very simple and elegant, and don’t have as many signatures on them as later trunks did.
In 1872, LV started manufacturing trunks that were made of red striped cloth. A few years later, customers could choose maroon and beige striped trunks if they so pleased.
In 1888, the damier, or checkerboard, pattern was produced. This was offered in either a brown or black color scheme. The damier pattern persists today on many LV pieces, much like the monogram.
If you find an LV trunk that has one of these patterns (including the monogram) and it is billed as being a certain age, double check to see when the pattern was introduced to make sure you are getting an authentic trunk. Often times, you will see people selling LV trunks from the early 1800s, when in fact, Louis Vuitton himself wasn’t even born until 1821.
Louis Vuitton Trunk Labels: A Stylish Timestamp
All Louis Vuitton trunks come with two identifiers that will help to authenticate them- a serial number, and an official label. Of course, we are talking about old objects that have endured years of wear and hard use, so sometimes a label may be missing. Even if a label is missing, there may still be a serial number, often times stamped onto the interior fabric.
Labels help to date a trunk because they were introduced to designate a change of decade, a new style, or a new LV store. There can be multiple labels for a decade, so do keep that in mind. A great resource for all things Louis Vuitton is 100 Legendary Trunks, which is published by LV. There is a variety of helpful information, such as a label key in the back of the book. If you do not have this book, another option is to look up the founding date of the stores that are printed on the label. This may help to pinpoint the era of your trunk.
If you do not have the time to research, or you have exhausted all of your resources, your best bet is to send in photos of both the trunk and the label to a reputable vintage Louis Vuitton dealer, and they will be more than happy to help you on your quest.
Above, you will see the variations of labels that can be found in a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk.
Top Row- Left: Circa 1885. The serial number is handwritten on the bottom center of the label. The medals on the label show the prizes won at exhibitions. Center: Circa 1910; Right: Circa 1920. This label is very similar to the previous one, but it shows two other store locations.
Center Row- Left: This shows a hand woven monogram pattern. This technique was phased out in 1904. Right: This shows a hand stenciled monogram pattern. The technique and materials used in a trunk can help to date a vintage trunk as well.
Bottom Row- Left: Circa 1920s. Center: Circa 1926. Right: Circa 1961.
Signatures to Know
If the LV monogram pattern doesn’t give it away, look even more closely for the signatures that Louis Vuitton incorporates into the design. These small indicators will help to verify a trunk’s authenticity.
Top Left: This trunk lock is engraved with the lock’s patent number, the addresses of two major store locations, and the company name.
Top Right: “Louis Vuitton” is embroidered into the ecru ribbons of a satin interior roof lining.
Bottom Left: “Louis Vuitton” is stitched into the cage of a hat box.
Bottom Right: Slightly faded from over 100 years of use, these rivets are all engraved “Louis Vuitton.”
Other signatures will be found on various straps, handles, latches, buckles, and tabs.
Buy Worry-Free LV
Though the LV monogram was introduced to prevent counterfeiting, unfortunately this has not stopped the production of counterfeit pieces. Louis Vuitton is actually one of the most counterfeited brands in the world. These days, counterfeiters focus on producing fake LV purses and other small goods, but it is still not out of the question to find an unauthentic trunk.
Much like photoshop is used to enhance models, proper lighting, backgrounds, and editing can make a $2000 trunk look like it is worth $10000. It is always nerve wracking to purchase something you haven’t seen in real life, especially something like an LV trunk that can vary in wear, upkeep, and level of restoration.
The best advice is to buy in person from a reputable dealer. If you do want to try buying from an online post, be sure to contact the person who posted it. Never be afraid to ask questions about the trunk, or if you can have additional photographs. Most people will happily oblige your requests. If a seller seems reluctant to provide you with any information, then it is probably best to look elsewhere.