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

    Posted 2.20.13 Reply
  2. 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:

    Posted 2.20.13 Reply
  3. Kristin & Bela – thank you both so much!

    Posted 2.20.13 Reply
  4. 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!

    Posted 2.20.13 Reply
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  6. Christie wrote:

    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!


    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  7. ola wrote:

    Great blog sweetie! I'm also blogging from Boston. New follower here. 🙂
    come by and see my blog if you'd like.

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  8. 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 :).

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  9. Michelle wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  10. Bela Anzu wrote:

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

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  11. 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.


    For The Love Of Sales

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  12. 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.


    For The Love Of Sales

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  13. Rosie wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  14. Hi Jean! Just voted for you on ASOS! You should let everyone know to vote for you in the Oscars contest here:;=8336&WT.tsrc;=Social%20Campaigns

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  15. 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 :).

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  16. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 2.19.13 Reply
  17. Super lovely blog!


    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  18. 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! 🙂


    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  19. 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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  20. That bad is so cute Jean!!! I think I'm falling in love with Coach all over again lol

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  21. Julie wrote:

    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

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  22. Jessy wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  23. V GPetite wrote:

    Thanks for sharing! : )

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  24. Great information and style 🙂 Thanks heaps!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  25. Anonymous wrote:

    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

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  26. Mary-Irene wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  27. Trisha wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  28. Trisha wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  29. newpetite wrote:

    Such a through review! Great post!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  30. Ann wrote:

    What a gorgeous and chic bag. Love it!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  31. Anonymous wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  32. Bromeliad wrote:

    I've got 9824 sitting right next to me.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  33. sophié wrote:

    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…

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  34. Thanks so much for this post, Jean !!! Very helpful. Can you do post on taking care of leather boots? Thanks!

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  35. G wrote:

    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 🙁

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    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 🙁

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  37. Angel wrote:

    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.


    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  38. R.L. wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  39. Vivian wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  40. Julia wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  41. Anonymous wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  42. 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.

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  43. Anonymous wrote:

    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

    Posted 2.18.13 Reply
  44. Christine wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  45. Wendy wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  46. Wendy wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  47. lin wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  48. Erin wrote:

    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.

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  49. Ping wrote:

    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. 🙂

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply
  50. Miriam wrote:

    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!

    Posted 2.17.13 Reply

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