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:


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.

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:

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:

coachcourtb ag3

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.
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!

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When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

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