Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vintage Coach Bags - Review, Shopping & Care / Cleaning Tips

Today's review is on a bag that has been a much-loved addition to my small purse collection. Coach was the first designer brand I spent my teenage earnings on, but I only had eyes for their canvas logo print at the time. I have since sold all of those bags, but have discovered a new-found love for the brand through their beautiful leather pieces from the past. 

Coach Court Bag - Review
I first saw a pre-owned version of this Coach Court bag on a similar-sized friend (thanks, Ali!) and was quickly sold on the quality and versatility. For reference, I am 5 feet tall and this bag is a very proportional size for cross-body wear. Below are some of the measurements and features:
coachcourtbag
circa 1998 navy blue Court bag purchased via eBay (around $45)

The overall look and features are very similar to the J.Crew Edie bag (currently an extra 40% off plus free shipping with code STYLE40, see my review), except it is less structured. I considered several vintage Coach options before buying my Edie, but was deterred by the raw leather lining, as well as the high going prices of the red versions. Both are great as everyday bags if you don't carry much, but the Edie's boxier structure makes it more dressy (as worn here to a wedding), and the Court bag's soft shape and cross-body strap make it more casual.
coachcourtbag2

Vintage Coach Bags - Other Popular Styles
After I added this bag to my collection, I couldn't resist learning more about the other styles and colors available. Some of the most common styles I saw while combing the second-hand market (several of which are still offered in Coach's current line, with slight changes) are:
coachcourtbag1
Image sources: my own, Google images, and here

These also were the most popular colors that I came across in my search - British tan (the caramel brown), navy, red, hunter green (love it), black, and dark chocolate brown (not pictured above)...

Personally, I prefer buying such bags on the second-hand market for greater color and style selection, plus added character. The older leathers also feel different from those in-stores now even for the same styles - I don't know what the difference is exactly, but it feels less treated/coated. Lastly, there's no better testament to item quality and longevity than finding an old bag in excellent condition.

Re-sizing Straps - I received this question from readers and figured it is widely applicable for several styles of bags. If strap length is usually an issue for you, make sure to look for styles that have adjustable straps with buckles (some Coach straps are not adjustable, as shown above). My adjustable strap was still too long for me at the shortest hole, but no biggie....
coach court bag1
If you don't have a leather hole puncher by now, then you've been seriously missing out. It's great for both men (my Dad makes special requests for me to bring mine home) and women for adding extra sizes to belts, handbag straps, and even leather ankle shoe straps. Since the extra length of the strap on my bag was so long, I looped it around as shown above, and securely tucked the end through the small holder loop.

Vintage Coach Bags - Shopping Tips
- If looking on eBay with a specific budget, be patient with your search because there are tons of new options listed every week for pre-owned Coach. I recommend using the filters on the side for "leather" only, narrowing it down to the color(s) you want, then filtering from price low to high. I don't recommend including any style names or numbers in the search box, as many listings are not labeled with such.

- Be sure to read the listings carefully for measurements (or ask) as several styles may look similar, but could be very different in size. I was watching several bags that looked just like small crossbodys, but upon receiving the measurements they turned out to be large messenger bags that could even fit a laptop.

- I could not find great guides on signs of authentic vs. counterfeit Coach leather bags, but general guidance is to inspect leather quality and bag craftsmanship for any non-symmetrical sides, crooked or non-even stitching, peeling material that looks like cardboard, etc.

- Make sure you see a photo of the creed tag containing a serial number (implemented only in 1994 +) and "made in" information. Carefully compare details of the creed tag to make sure that 1) the style # matches the actual style of the bag, 2) the style of the creed tag is appropriate for the time period that the date code implies, and 3) the numbers, letters, and stitching (if applicable, since tags from some time periods are not stitched on) on it are even. For example, my bag has the following creed tag:
coachcourtbag3
Overall, looking at the tag alone doesn't really gauge authenticity, but does inform you about the bag. My evaluation based on the above steps, using this handy resource as a guide:

1) Style # is 9870 per the guide, which corresponds to "Court bag." I searched images of "Court bags" online which looks right.

2) The creed tag here is not a separate tag stitched on - it is embossed directly on the interior. According to the guide, this is common for bags made in 1990s-2000s. Per the guide, "The first letter is the month, in order from A for January, all the way through M for December, skipping I for clarity because I was too easy to mistake for 1. The second number is the year the bag was made, 4 for 1994, 3 for 2003, and 04 for 2004, with double numbers being used for every year after 2004. The third or fourth number in the creed is the factory designation number. I don't think Coach has ever released a list of these numbers and what they stand for to the public."

Based on this info, my bag was made in October of 1998 in Costa Rica. There's different standards as to what can be considered "vintage" (I always thought 10-15 years), so this could be designated as just "pre-owned."

3) The numbers and letters look uniform and very similar to an authentic tag from 1997 posted by the guide.

Vintage Coach Bags - Cleaning and Care
Disinfecting - As with all pre-owned items, I recommend a thorough cleaning for sanitation purposes. I used bleach (ie. Lysol) wipes thoroughly on the inside and outside to disinfect my bag, but don't necessary recommend this in case it might stain leathers (so please do so at your own risk). For old smells, baking soda is supposed to absorb odors, so you can try putting an Arm & Hammer packet or small open baking soda box into the interior of the bag, and letting it sit inside for a day.

Washing - Via this site, I read an interesting "how to care for your Coach bag" pamphlet issued by Coach in 1982, which offered specific instructions on washing and re-shaping a leather bag:

My bag did not come with any visible stains, so I simply used the bleach wipes and did not attempt a bag bath. However, while browsing The Purse Forum, I read about many members who did and were happy with the results. Please keep in mind that the nature of Coach leathers have changed over the decades, and the natural- glove-tanned leather of the past feels very different from those in the retail stores today. Based on whether the leathers were treated or coated, they may react differently to being washed.
coachcourtbag3
As previously mentioned, the interior of older Coach bags (and maybe today's - not sure) has a suede-like texture. Upon looking it up, this is just an un-lined interior, or "raw" side of the leather. It's the one aspect I don't love about the bag because I feel like it's harder to sanitize, but the TPF members linked above mentioned using a toothbrush to give it a good scrub while washing.

Restoring Color - My bag also did not have any faded or missing color, but I spoke with my cobbler in the past about that scenario. He suggested leather finish dye (examples) or polish which is less opaque (examples). The TPF member above also suggested using acrylic paint for small touch-ups.

Gentle Cleaning and Conditioning - After reading Kelly's post, I purchased some Cadillac Boot & Shoe Care leather conditioner per her suggestion. This cream supposedly "cleans, polishes, protects, and conditions" for all colors of leather. I have not conditioned this Court bag yet, but I hope it will help buff away some of the scratches. However, I did condition a vintage Station bag purchased for SewPetiteGal, and it seemed to add some luster and softness to the leather after fully drying. I do not believe this can remove any significant stains, but it may help lighten up mild ones.

Readers - Do you have an old Coach bag that you still love, or have you also recently discovered (or re-discovered) their leather products? I would love to hear any of your own shopping or care tips for older leather bags!

72 comments:

  1. yes! i LOVE my black leather coach bag.. i have no idea what the name/style is but it's just plain and simple black but it's one of my favorite bags in my collection!

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  2. Hi Jean! Thanks for the review. I been looking for a Red Cross body and love the regina bag! I'm going to hunt it down on ebay. Enjoy the rest of the weekend girl. :)

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  3. This is a great guide! I absolutely adore the look and quality of these vintage Coach bags. I thrifted a navy pocket purse in college and it's my favorite bag still.

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  4. thanks, jean, for the detailed and thorough review of your coach handbag. i will refer to this when i find the court/willis handbag that i want (still debating on which i like better).

    by the way, i just purchased the black jcrew edie handbag. i was looking for a red one like yours but unfortunately they were out of that color.

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  5. Hi Jean,

    I saw your post on this bag last month and was reinspired to buy the vintage Court. I went on eBay and found 2; one in Navy and another one in Mahagoney. I bought both! Like you, I started researching the different styles of past bags, quality, and counterfeit vs. authentic. It was very eye opening. I had a lot of fun learning what the serial codes meant, etc. I bought the Patricia a few days later. I think I'm set for purses for a while. I love the vintage bags a lot more than the current offerings even though the styles are pretty much the same. You're right, there is something different about these reissues. The bags now seem lighter and almost has a 'fake' quality to it. I can't justify the cost for the look and feel of the current bags. I would much, much rather have an older bag than the new ones of the same style.

    Thank you for this post! I follow your blog daily.

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    1. PS- the mahagoney court I found is older than me so each time I carry it, it feels as though I'm carrying a bit of history.

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  6. I recently acquired a Court bag on eBay, mine is from 1997. So, so happy. It literally goes with everything I wear, it's my most versatile bag. I also love that I can wear it crossbody.

    I rub a lot of leather conditioner into my bag once in a while -- but I have to say, the leather is so creamy and smooth, it's very much worth buying it vintage or almost. For any faded colour areas, I use a black tinted leather shine cream. It works well to hide any sort of fraying seams as well.

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  7. Hi Jean, thank you for a very detailed review. Do you mind sharing
    where you sold your bags before? Is it eBay or some consignment
    company. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. I sold them all via eBay - they don't command too much these days and selling fees are up to 9%, but eBay is the biggest market.

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  8. What a wonderful and detailed post! I wished I saw this post two years ago and used eBay to buy my Coach bag. I first saw this style when my friend purchased it from a vintage event at BU (which I missed out because I had class at that time, dang it!).

    I never thought of buying it through eBay (due to fact of counterfeits and the hassle). I took the easy way out and purchased mine from the Coach website. Although mine is not vintage, I still love it to death, and happy with it. Just wished it was cheaper! I like to use mine in the summer months and it goes great with casual outfits. It is the only Coach bag I own because I'm not a fan of the logo bags.

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  9. hello jean.
    do you mind sharing how much you got yours on ebay? although it is a lot less than the original price i do feel a bit reluctant to purchase vintage goods $30+. Especially I might need to do some polishing work here and there.

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    1. Hi there - I got mine for about $40-$45 including shipping, I believe, but going prices will differ depending on condition and color.

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  10. Great post! It is interesting to see how Coach has evolved from the classic and simple leather design to fabrics with the logo prints everywhere, and then now back to the original one. Looking at each Coach bag I owe has always reminded me of the different stages in my life - teenager, college, and now working professional.

    Jean, would you share some tips on how you store all the bags you have? Just like you, I currently live in an apartment with very limited storage space. It would be great if you could share a snapshot of your "bag organizer" on instagram or here! Thanks.

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  11. I was so excited for this post. I was going to snatch up a Coach court myself after this post, but I did one before so I was excited to hear about sanitizing. The one I got has a slight smoke smell inside and some 'dirt'. I don't know if that's the case because it's raw lining or it's just mine, but I'm looking for ways to deeply sanitize mine, for the every nook and cranny. I'm a bit of a clean freak so I want to deeply clean mine. I got a 9870 in Mahogany. I've already tried the bleach wipes but it doesn't seem to do the job for this one, for me anyway. Recommend washing it with soap as mentioned? I can't find professional leather cleaners in Hawaii, sadly so I'm going to have to find ways on my own to clean it.

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    1. Dear Jean,
      great to see you talking about purses. because i am debating if i should buy the Prada that you bought BN2274 or the louis vuitton cabas rosebery (sku N41177) n Raspail MM (sku n40607). It is my very first purchase of such an expensive purse, i am feeling so nervous. I have to make a decision by tomorrow since i am back to Canada soon and want to enjoy the lower tax in Las vegas. It is more for everyday work and ideally fit weekend outting as well. and i love all ur taste and style, so u are my best source of advice =) great thanks.

      Angel

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    2. Vivian, you might try stuffing it with newspaper and leaving it for a few days. Newsprint will absorb many odors -- I haven't tried it with smoke, but it worked with cat pee, so I figure it can help just about anything!

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    3. Thanks Trisha! (=
      Do you also recommend giving it a bath?
      I've thought about washing it to remove dirt, but I'm afraid since it's leather.

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    4. Vivian, I am one of the ones on the purse forum who gives my old leather Coach bags a bath. I probably own well over 30 vintage Coach bags and have washed dozens. Smoke smell is hard. Washing helps (smell will seem stronger while bag is wet) but honestly time, patience, and some charcoal pellets worked for me. I tried several things, including making a couple of sachets from old stockings. Fill with the type of charcoal pellets sold at pet/fish stores. Put the bag along with the sachet into a sealed sterilite type container and literally put it away for a couple of weeks minimum but it works best if repeated over a long period of time, unfortunately, depending the severity of the smoke. You could toss a box of baking soda in for good measure if you want. If you can later air the bag outside (not in direct sun) that helps too. Keep repeating variations of the above. It will help.

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  12. Loved the detailed review! You inspired me to buy 2 pre-owned Coach bags (court bag in mahogany and pocket purse in British tan) after you first showcased your bag. My court bag was in amazing condition but missing the Coach tag. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that if you contact Coach, they will send you a matching tag for free! My pocket purse turned out not to be in the best condition but I figure I'm going to use it as a practice project to try my luck at restoring a leather purse. You've definitely sold me on pre-owned bags! Been eyeing the Coach doctor speedy bag now.

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    1. Such a great tip! I had no idea they did that. Now if only they'll sell replacement straps for free too (looks like several ppl are in need of one for old bags!). Happy to hear that you're happy with your purchases. The doctor speedy is a classic too - have you seen it on the blog inthecitywithcrystalin?

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  13. Hi Jean! I have the same bag in navy (also from ebay) and was just wondering, is your navy almost black? I keep looking at it and it just looks like black to me even though it's supposed to be navy :(

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    1. Mine is more on the blue side than black - I wonder if several different shades were made over the years?

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    2. That's so odd. I checked out the creed using the info in yr post and mine was made in the same year as yours but in May :) The seller told me it's supposed to be a dark navy. In any case, I still love the bag! Thanks for sharing with us :)

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    3. Just wanted to add that I just voted for you on ASOS! Good luck! :)

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    4. They did have a dark navy that almost looks black.

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  14. Great post! May I ask how you sold your other Coach bags? I have quite a few canvas logo print Coach bags that I've accumulated in my younger years. They are all in perfect condition, and it hurts me to see them just sitting in my closet :(

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  15. Thanks so much for this post, Jean !!! Very helpful. Can you do post on taking care of leather boots? Thanks!

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  16. The usual highly informative and well researched posts we ve come to expect! Not just a pretty face....thank you very much, dashing off in search of vintage coach...

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  17. I've got 9824 sitting right next to me.

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  18. I was home for the holidays and snooping through my mother's closet when I happened upon 3 different shapes of the classic Coach leather bags! I've been wondering how to restore them - they are still in decent shape but clearly have been well loved. I'm so excited to "borrow" them next time I'm at my mother's!

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  19. What a gorgeous and chic bag. Love it!

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  20. Such a through review! Great post!

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  21. I bought this bag based on a mention you made of it several posts ago, and immediately fell in love. It's such a great size for a petite woman -- several people have commented on it! I need to shorten the strap but it's otherwise perfect. Can't imagine why anyone would spend $200+ on a new Coach bag when you can get this bag for a quarter of the price...I'm considering buying more in other colors. Thanks so much for the tip.

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  22. Years ago, my Mom gave me the Briefcase (in British Tan) from this collection! Before my family and I moved in the fall, I donated it to Goodwill. It was beautifully well made, but long before the days of needing to schlep the clunky office laptop to and from work. The most I could comfortably fit into the bag were notepads and file folders.

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  23. Hi Extra Petite,

    Thanks for this post! I have an old Coach purse, about 15 years old. It's about the size of a clutch but it has short handles so it can old be held by the top handle. Unfortunately, I prefer wearing it on my shoulder or as a cross body. Do you know of any places that sell just a long strap? The Coach store does not carry any extra straps for purchase. Leather would be great but not necessarily. I'd be happy with a gold chain as a strap.

    Would love your thoughts!

    ~ DK

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    1. I bought a shorter replacement strap for my bag on ebay from a seller called silver-coach. They have a variety of lengths (included petite-friendly shorter lengths!), and the tan strap I bought matches my bag well.

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  24. Great information and style :) Thanks heaps!

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  25. Thanks for the post, Jean. It was really useful in helping me learn more about the Court bag I bought after seeing it on you in a previous post. : ) I use my Danier leather care products for all of my genuine leather jackets, shoes, and bags and it has always worked on everything. Out of the five styles you listed, the Court is my favourite one. Your navy version is gorgeous! I'm itching for a burgundy or red bag right now.

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  26. I have a vintage Coach station bag in british tan that I love! I got it off of eBay for $20 with another Coach bag (the pocket purse). Jealous of your navy court bag!!

    xoxo, Julie @ OBSESSED

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  27. That bad is so cute Jean!!! I think I'm falling in love with Coach all over again lol

    www.OutfitsFromMyCloset.com

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  28. I just bought one from 1980s that was actually made in New York. It came with all of the brochures, care cards, etc. in a little drawstring bag. I love, and the leather is very soft and supple. I have yet to see a bag like mine.
    The leather has changed since now that Coach product are made in Asia. I can definitely tell the difference, and there have been many complaints on other blogs about the change in quality.

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  29. I have the old Coach purses w/ the logos all over them from when I was younger too! :) Definitely prefer to carry more understated items nowadays as well. I love the belt hole puncher - had ordered one based on a past post of yours and it is a lifesaver! Now I don't have to worry as much about ordering belts that are slightly bigger than my size! :)

    L&F,
    KC

    www.lifeinpetite.blogspot.com

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  30. Super lovely blog!


    xo

    colormenana.blogspot.com

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  31. jean, could you share your skincare routine and what products you use? your skin looks flawless!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there - I just moisturize (with Eucerin, which is fragrance free) and use Cetaphil cleanser and a Clarisonic Mia ever so often. Photos are a little deceiving as I definitely have my share of blemishes! For other makeup, I still follow this face routine: http://www.extrapetite.com/2011/08/easy-smokey-eye-look-for-beginners.html

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  32. How much I love this bag! It goes with everything You wear - formal and weekend outfits :). Thank for the cleaning and care routine, it's very helpful, also for other leather bags :).

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  33. Hi Jean! Just voted for you on ASOS! You should let everyone know to vote for you in the Oscars contest here: http://us.asos.com/ASOS-Oscars-Blogger/znsy3/?cid=17080&affid=8336&WT.tsrc=Social%20Campaigns

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    1. I didn't realize you styled an OSCARS look on ASOS. I just voted for you!

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    2. Kristin & Bela - thank you both so much!

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  34. Love this post! I am off to find one of my own. Thanks for all the detail it will really help me since this will be my first vintage bag.

    XOXO-MelD

    For The Love Of Sales www.ftlos.com

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  35. Love this post! I am off to find one of my own. Thanks for all the detail it will really help me since this will be my first vintage bag.

    XOXO-MelD

    For The Love Of Sales www.ftlos.com

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  36. Great post! I purchased a vintage Willis a few months ago and despite claims that it was from a "non-smoking home", when I opened the box, it reeked. I was bummed. Luckily, the seller offered a refund and I ended up purchasing the Willis re-issue from Coach, but I loved the idea of buying a vintage one for many of the reasons you stated.

    Wanted to add, while I am hardly petite (5'8" here), I absolutely love your blog and your style is impeccable. I take style notes from you even though I'm taller. : )

    I also voted for you on the ASOS Oscar challenge. It was easy; I liked your look best!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michelle! So nice to hear that height doesn't hinder you from visiting : )

      Bummer about the bag that smelled like smoke, but you can't go wrong with a new bag that you can take good care of yourself from the start. Willis is a forever classic Coach style!

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  37. I love the detail of your research! Practical advice I could definitely use if I ever buy vintage Coach! I see a vintage Coach craze coming soon :).

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  38. Great blog sweetie! I'm also blogging from Boston. New follower here. :)
    come by and see my blog if you'd like.
    xx
    ola
    www.stylesbyola.com

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  39. i love your blog posts and the advices you give on some vintage finds. I love how the Coach bags are so classic and can be worn for years to come. The leather also looks absolutely gorgeous!

    xoxo,

    http://www.loveandcompanyblog.ca

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  40. It's neat how you loop the strap around after adding extra holes! Another way to shorten them is to see if your cobbler can remove excess strap from where the strap is attached to the D or O rings on the purse body and then stitch the strap back on the rings.

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  41. I LOVE the scarf you are wearing in the photo with your green jacket - did you share the source beofore and I missed it? Love your blog!

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  42. Such an informative post! I love how you not only buy something, but you really research it and the options available AND share it with us. And with me, you did more than share :) Thank you for the beautiful bag! Did you know it helped prevent a pickpocket? After stopping by a busy store in the city, I found that someone had unlatched my purse. Thankfully, the depth and width of the purse prevented them from lifting my wallet!!

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  43. This was an amazing post! I've been thinking about getting a vintage court for a while now, and this inspired me to really start looking. Thanks for all the research! :)

    www.kellyinthecity.com

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  44. What do u think abt clarisonic mia? Is it worth it?

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  45. Hi! First time commenter :) I just wanted to say I was also inspired to get a vintage Coach bag after your post, and I'm so happy with it! (I bought the Regina in black from eBay, around $40 total, and it's in perfect condition)

    A while back this column had a lot of Q&A about caring for Coach bags, so it might be helpful for anyone looking on ways to clean or fixed stained items :) http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/ask-a-clean-person-dude-wheres-my-coach

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    Replies
    1. eeek! go here first. Youll be amazed at all the helpful Coach cleaning tips. http://forum.purseblog.com/coach/coach-rehab-and-rescue-club-624452.html p.s. shoe polish as a fix will rub off on your clothes!!

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  46. Hi Jean, Thanks so much for this review! I started looking up the pocket purse after seeing how lovely vintage Coach pieces are and came across this re. the 3rd number in the creed code:

    "EXAMPLE : D9C-9966 means 'D (4th letter of alphabet, 4th month = APRIL) the 9 represents the year ( 1999 ) and C is United States. So you know by this, that the bag was made in April of 1999 in the USA. The country of origin letters vary. D is US also C and several other letters all mean US; P is Costa Rica, and so on."
    http://reviews.ebay.com/Tips-on-researching-amp-identifying-authentic-Coach-bags?ugid=10000000013774963

    So it looks like you're on the right track as the P designation for Costa Rica matches the tag. Hope that might be helpful in authenticating future bags!

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  47. Thanks so much for this review! I absolutely love vintage Coach bags, and I currently own 2 Court bags. I find them to be the perfect size for me since I'm 5'2". You've got me lusting after the Regina and Station bag too now :p

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  48. I was actually browsing through my mom's bag collection a little before Coach remade their signature leather line and came across this really old bag (small and rectangular, black leather, zipped opening) that she had passed down to me when I was in middle school and it became my very first purse. I was honestly surprised it was still living (lol) and while inspecting it, I thought that it was still in INCREDIBLE condition (considering that I treated it like crap when I owned it). Immediately after, I went searching for some vintage Coach leather bags on eBay and spontaneously purchased a Willis in hunter green for about $80 (actually more on the expensive side for vintage Coach, but alas, apparently green is an uncommon color). Anyway, it is my *favorite* go-to bag! (It also conveniently fits an iPad perfectly!) I was so happy when, recently, my sister made a comment about how she's been reading about a "comeback" for Coach leather goods on several fashion blogs that she follows. Now I fear prices might hike up on eBay, hahaha.

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  49. Wait you didn't literally use bleach right? Wouldn't that take the color off?

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  50. This is a wonderful and detailed guide! Anyway, it is my favorite go-to bag.I could definitely use if I ever buy vintage Coach.
    sound healing

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  51. ...It was then that I realized I had been on this blog for an hour, and should probably stop writing down things I either wanted or had learned from this. Oops. Good use of the afternoon! But this was the post that brought me in - it was particularly helpful, as I just bought two vintage coach bags last week and didn't know how to properly care for them.

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  52. I LOVE the scarf you are wearing in the photo with your green jacket
    did you share the source before and I missed it?
    Love your blog!

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  53. Gorgeous bag! Love the Court and Willis. I've been searching for my own vintage Coach bag and found these guides to be the most helpful. I thought it might help you and other ladies too:

    http://www.ebay.com/gds/Coach-Authenticity-Guides-Facts-and-Myths-/10000000062607882/g.html

    http://www.ebay.com/gds/Coach-Serial-Numbers-the-Basic-Facts-/10000000034886433/g.html

    http://www.ebay.com/gds/Coach-Creeds-the-Basic-Facts-/10000000030821024/g.html

    http://www.ebay.com/gds/Authentic-Coach-Vintage-and-Classic-Leather-/10000000062579034/g.html



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