There are few phone calls more exciting for a handbag lover than the one they receive from their Hermès sales associate telling them that their Birkin has finally come in after months of waiting. Those devoted to the brand know that it is typical to have to purchase various small leather goods and accessories before you’re deemed a suitable candidate for one of their coveted Birkin or Kelly bags. For this reason, many turn to the resale market in order to bypass the waiting list and get their hands on the bag of their dreams. A Birkin or a Kelly is a serious investment piece which makes the bags that much more attractive to counterfeiters and scammers to replicate. For those who are finally ready to commit to their first Hermès purse or for those collectors hunting down specific styles, here are a few key things to look out for when authenticating a Hermès handbag.
Hermès Logo Stamp
- Each bag is stamped with “HERMÈS PARIS MADE IN FRANCE.” On a Birkin or a Kelly, the stamp is placed just below the stitching above the “touret” or the hardware that holds the lock. The stamps on fake bags are often placed too low or are slightly crooked.
- Depending on the bag, the logo will be stamped into the leather or printed in gold or silver to coordinate with the bag’s hardware. Beware of logos that are stamped very deeply into the leather as this is a sign of a counterfeit. Various fonts have been used over the years so don’t panic if the font looks different from another one you’ve seen.
- Bags made from exotic leathers like crocodile will feature addition markings on their logo stamps like ** or =. Make sure to do your homework about corresponding leathers and symbols.
- Hermès also uses a series of symbols to differentiate special bags. For example: a shooting star printed below the logo stamp is the mark of the one bag a year that a craftsman is allowed to keep for personal use or to gift to someone. These bags are not eligible to be serviced by Hermès. Another example is the horseshoe symbol, which signifies that the bag was a special order and was made to the specifications of the original buyer. It is common to see tricolor Birkins with this symbol.
- Fonts should be clean and crisp and easy to read. The most recent fonts are very thin.
Hermès Blind Stamp
- Hermès bags are stamped with markings that indicate the year the bag was made and in which atelier. The date portion of the stamp is made up of a letter corresponding to a year inside a shape. From 1945 to 1970, no shape was used. A circle was used from 1971 to 1996, and a square was used from 1997 to present. Note that the date code is used as part of the authentication process, but does not guarantee authenticity.
- Authenticating via the blind stamp can be tricky as authentic bags sometimes have stamps that are crooked and the fonts used have changed over the years. Contrary to popular belief, not all bags have a blind stamp so a missing stamp is not cause for immediate concern.
- Up until January, 2016, the blind stamp was placed on the interior of the sangles (the strap that is used to draw in the sides and close the front of the bag) on both the Birkin and the Kelly bags. Hermès has since moved the stamp to the inside upper left corner of these bags.
- Hermès hardware is either gold plated or made from palladium, meaning it is rare for hardware to tarnish. If you have a bag with silver hardware and gold showing through, it is fake. Silver hardware that is tarnished however may be authentic. Hardware should feel weighty and substantial.
- The Birkin and the Kelly both come with a lock and keys. The lock will have “Hermès” engraved on the bottom as well as a number that corresponds to the matching keys. Beware of locks with the numbers 121, 212, and 102 as counterfeiters often use them.
- Because of the scarcity of Birkins and Kelly’s, it’s rare to find one much below retail price on the resale market. If you find a purse at a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is. The bags have steadily increased in price over the years and someone selling theirs is almost always looking to take advantage of the appreciation in price.
- As with any designer handbag purchase, it’s important to buy from a reputable reseller that has built up their credibility. Have the bag authenticated if you can, and request more photos if you’re uncertain about anything. Make sure that they have a fair return policy. You can never be too careful when making a 5-figure purchase, so don’t feel rushed to make a decision. There is generally a smaller pool of buyers for bags at these price points, so if a reseller is pressuring you or telling you that the bag may be gone tomorrow, be wary.
- Each Hermès handbag takes an artisan 24 hours of work to hand-make. There is a reason why these bags cost what they do and one of them is the quality. Every part of the bag is scrutinized to ensure perfection. If you can spot even the slightest flaw in your bag, it’s time to start questioning things. A Hermès craftsman would never misplace a stitch or misalign a logo stamp.
- There should be no bulges in the leather, both exterior and interior. A high stitch count should ensure a smooth silhouette. Stitches on Hermès bags are slanted and even, not perfectly straight.
- The metal portion of the zipper pull of the zipped pocket inside a Birkin is engraved with “Hermès.” Some zipper pulls also have an H in a circle on them. The leather part of the pull is cut in a triangle at the end, not straight across or curved.
- The leather clochette that houses the keys to the bag is made from one piece of leather—not two pieces stitched together.
- Birkin and Kelly bags have protective feet at their bases and stand on their own. The bag should not topple over.
- A Hermès Birkin does not come with a card or a paper tag. Beware counterfeiters who try to use these as means of authentication. Some scam artists are currently trying to sell bags with an orange authenticity card.
- Vintage bags come in tan velour dust covers. They came in orange flannel dust covers until 2007 and they currently come in a herringbone toile dust cover.
- A receipt can be faked just like anything else. If the seller provides you with a receipt, make sure to call the corresponding store to see if the bag was actually sold there.
These tips will help you with the basics of authenticating a potential future purchase and help you identify the most mistakes that counterfeiters tend to make in their replicas. Make sure to do your research about the specifics of the bag you’re interested in and get it authenticated by a third party if you have any doubts. Happy Hermès hunting, ladies!