The Hermès Birkin is the most luxurious handbag one can own. The price champions the quality craftsmanship that goes into cutting, sewing and crafting each bag by hand and to perfection. This attention to detail is what makes the bag so sought-after. Hermès extensive waitlist and limited-edition collections makes getting the Birkin you want more difficult than expected. Searching vintage retailers for the Birkin of your dreams can be a daunting task. However, there are special attributes that make a Birkin bag unlike any other bag on the market which can help shoppers distinguish real vintage Birkins from fake ones. Here is what to look for when you’re shopping for an authentic Birkin.

Check the stitching.

All Hermès bags are hand-stitched which means the stitching should be flat, smooth and may include slight variations. Look closely for a tight, slightly diagonal stitch. The stitching should not look like a familiar symmetrical machine stitch. Plus, there shouldn’t be any loose threads inside the bag.

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Ask about the leather.

The leather chosen for Birkins are expertly sourced and is what gives the bag its statuesque shape. Birkins can be constructed of more than 30 specialty leathers each with a specific  Hermès name. The name of the leather will always be listed in the name as well as the color. Some colors are only made with specific leathers in specific sizes. It’s best to research whether the color, leather and size combination exists.

Inspect the stamps.

The logo is located on the front of the bag, under the flap and should not be interrupted by the grain of the leather. It will always be straight and centered and read “Hermès Paris Made In France.” The logo should match the hardware unless it is a colorless stamp or matte brown stamp. If the bag is an exotic it will have an additional mark. Crocodile bags are stamped with two dots to the right of the logo for Niloticus crocodile bags and a “˄” stamp for Porosus crocodile bags. Alligator bags have a square next to the logo. A lizard bags have a single or double hyphen. The horse shoe stamp appears on special order Birkins. A shooting star stamp appears on specialty bags for the friends and family of Hermès artisans.

The right side of the strap closure is engraved “Hermès Paris” in a thin, tight font. It may or may not have an underscore. The underside of the strap has two markings that make up the blind stamp. The left side has a letter and a number that identifies the artisan and the right side denotes the age of the bag. From 1945 to 1970 the stamp includes a letter corresponding to the year. From 1971 to 1996 letters were stamped inside of circles. From 1997 to present letters were stamped inside of squares. In 2016, the blind stamp moved to the upper back left corner of the Birkin near the back flap.

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Feel and inspect the hardware.

The hardware (lock, keys and studs) on Birkin bags are made of precious metals. The silver tone hardware is called  palladium and is a mix of platinum and silver. Gold tone hardware has real gold plating. The hardware should never feel light and will not look tarnished. The toggle should always have a smooth turn in both directions without resistance. It is engraved with “Hermès” and two numbers. The second number under the brand mark should match the numbers on the keys. Bags with keys after 2000 may also be engraved with the brand name. All keys are attached to the bag with a leather clochette that loops onto the bag handle. The keys are tied together with leather and the clochette cover should be a single piece of sewn leather. You should also check the zipper. Hermès zippers are custom-made, engraved with the brand name. Zippers in newer bags include an “H” stop on the zipper. The zipper pull should remain parallel to the bag at all times.

Ask: Is it new?

New bags will never be wrapped in plastic and instead will lie on a pillow bed of tissue paper that allows the bag to breathe. If the bag is new, the box will allow the bag to fit inside without disrupting the handles.

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Ask if the bag comes with paperwork.

Hermès bags have never come with authenticity cards. Those branded Hermès cards are fake. This is not to be confused with CITES certificates. CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. It is a certificate that accompanies exotic skin bags such as crocodile, alligator, lizard or ostrich identifying them as exotics. Please be advised that vintage exotic bags may not have this documentation. However, What Goes Around Comes Around issues a letter of authenticity with each Birkin. This means that independent authenticators have inspected each bag and ensure that the bag is not a reproduction based on a rigorous and intensive multichannel process. What Goes Around Comes Around is a reseller of vintage pre-owned Hermès and is not affiliated with Hermès in any way. 

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