Can you imagine a vacation without any luggage? Despite the fact that the purpose of luggage remained the same, the look and design evolved significantly over time.
Many people have recently become interested in vintage luggage and due to its popularity, many cheap knockoffs are available on the market. Therefore, you should keep an eye on a few things if you want to bring home something of value.
Finding a genuine piece of history can be a challenge, so we created an easy guide on how to identify vintage luggage and get yourself the real deal.
Luggage Throughout The History
At the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of antique luggage was still in the shape of trunks and large chests. But, as transportation became more advanced, the size began to change to something smaller and more practical.
Around the 1920s people started traveling more by trains and automobiles. At this time suitcases made their appearance and the bulky trunks became a thing of the past.
They were made of strong leather with a wooden or steel frame to support the structure. These vintage suitcases had a side handle that made them easy to carry, and their reduced size allowed them to fit into trunks and train compartments.
Following WWII, air travel became more accessible to the general public. Hard-case luggage with oval edges and greater durability was the favored choice for air travelers in the 1950s and 1960s. On the inside, there was an extra layer of fabric for documents and a pair of straps to keep your clothing in place.
Travel had become frequent and affordable by the 1980s. Manufacturers began attaching wheels to suitcases and bags to make them easier to move. Fall-in handles and security locks began to appear, and baggage began to resemble that which is available today.
Vintage Luggage Brands
Having a well-known brand in your collection can make a big difference when it comes to buying and selling vintage trunks, suitcases, and bags. Some of these brands have been around for a long time and are true experts in the field of high-quality luggage.
Louis Vuitton founded his company way back in 1854. His first boutique emerged in Paris, France, and immediately became the most sought-after brand among Parisians.
Even though today you can buy bags of many different shapes and sizes from this luxury fashion brand, it all started with a simple trunk.
The first trunk was introduced to the public in 1858 and it was made from gray Trianon canvas. Back in the day, this piece was unique since it was the first steamer trunk with a flat top. In 1872, gray Trianon canvas was replaced with red and white striped Rayée canvas, while beige and brown stripes were added four years later.
If you’re interested in this kind of high-end vintage luggage, keep in mind that the designs changed throughout history and that this was done intentionally, to prevent imitations.
Samsonite is another luggage manufacturer with a lengthy history. Jesse Shwayder created it in Denver, Colorado in 1910. He was a devout Christian who named one of his first cases Samson after a Biblical character of the same name who symbolized strength and power.
Over the years, Samsonite company had huge success and has established a reputation for itself among luggage brands. Samsonite is still known for its long-lasting travel bags, and they’ve created a number of unique styles throughout the past.
The Samsonite Silhouette, introduced in 1958, was one of the most cutting-edge pieces of luggage available at the time. When compared to other manufacturers, Samsonite antique baggage is relatively affordable, so it would be a decent investment if you don’t want to splurge.
Gucci founded the House of Gucci in 1921, and it was in Florence, the capital of Tuscany region, that a new luggage visionary made his debut. This fine quality and high-end brand’s luggage straight away became a status symbol among the wealthy and a mark of good taste.
Due to a scarcity of leather during WWII, the company began using canvas in their travel bags and the famous red and green bands, that are recognizable to this day, followed soon after.
A vintage Gucci bag is a must-have for baggage collectors, so if you were fortunate enough to inherit one, you can sell it for a fair amount, depending on its condition.
Hartmann Luggage first welcomed clients in 1877. The company was founded by a Bavarian trunkmaker, Joseph S. Hartmann, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This American brand produced everything from large trunks to more stylish suitcases, and it is still known as a superior quality luggage manufacturer today.
Hartmann’s Skymate suitcase was so famous that even James Bond himself carried it in the 1954 novel, Live and Let Die.
Today, brands’ bags and suitcases are still known for their extreme durability, and each piece of luggage comes with a 10-year guarantee.
The Hartmann Luggage brand was bought by Samsonite in 2012, but the brand’s aesthetic remained the same, despite the change in ownership.
How to Identify Vintage Luggage
If you’re considering purchasing a vintage piece of baggage, don’t be fooled by its historical appeal at first glance. Fake retro suitcases and travel bags abound on the market, and spotting a real antique requires a careful eye.
Marks and Serial Numbers
Look for any visible marks or numbers on the exterior and interior of the luggage. Serial numbers are the best form of proof because they are unique and can be traced easily. These numbers are normally found on the inside, so check the pockets and the lining, but they can also be seen on luggage locks depending on the manufacturer.
It’s not a deal-breaker if you can’t discover a serial number; many cases don’t have one and are nonetheless valued.
Stamps and Name Tags
On the outside, look for town stamps, stickers, or royalty warrant stamps, so you can verify the time period of the desired piece and determine its age. Certain companies used the royalty warrant stamps as a sign of good quality and status, and to show off their connection to the crown.
Some baggage may have old receipts and even name tags that will help you figure out the purchase date and prior owner. Remember that even the smallest detail can help you identify your vintage luggage.
Cheap knockoffs are very common among big brands, especially if you’re looking for an authentic Louis Vuitton. Examine the patterns, stitching, and overall quality of the materials used. Luxury brands always use the best materials and that’s why their old luggage can still be found in very good condition.
Visit official websites and browse the catalogs of the companies you’re interested in, as many of them have descriptions of their luggage and information on how it evolved over the years. You can also contact the manufacturer directly and inquire about their products.
Finally, if you are still unsure about the luggage’s legitimacy, it is usually better to consult an expert before purchasing.
There are also pages where you can post a photo of your vintage luggage for others to remark on, which may help you get a better sense of the item you want to buy or sell.
How to Value Vintage Luggage
The cost of antique luggage varies greatly. Some high-end brands cost well over $15000, while others are more reasonable and accessible.
Look for Brand Labels
Big brands are purchased not just for their excellent quality, but also as a clear display of status and wealth. Collectors love Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci bags, which come with great value and a hefty price tag.
An original label or logo is not always found, but if it’s there it can raise the value of a vintage travel bag or case.
Older trunks and suitcases carry a higher value, however, their condition plays a big part. Luggage is thrown around and almost never handled with care and if it’s a vintage piece you can bet it went through a lot of tumbling and turning. Examine their frames and corners for damage, look for scratches and smudges, as well as any tears in the lining.
Keep in mind that many antique suitcases have a wooden frame. The worth of a rotten frame is zero, and it cannot be fixed. If you discover mold on your luggage, first determine if it can be removed; if it can’t, don’t buy it.
Verifying a former owner can be beneficial at times. Luggage held by prominent persons in history, such as former presidents or movie stars, is unquestionably more valuable than that of an anonymous previous owner.
A certificate of authenticity is frequently included with these objects, so make sure to inquire about one before purchasing.
Market Value Examples
To give you a rough estimate of the market value of vintage luggage, here are some examples of retro luggage available online:
- Antique / vintage Louis Vuitton cabin trunk, approximately US $4,000
- Gucci Vintage Web Zip Around Suitcase, around US $1000
- Large Vintage Hartmann Skymate Leather-Trimmed Suitcase, US $299
Whether you are looking to buy or sell vintage luggage always make sure you identify its authenticity. If you are interested in starting your own collection of vintage suitcases, there are many different luggage designs and sizes that appeared throughout history.
No matter the brand, remember to check for stamps, marks, and serial numbers in order to identify your antique baggage. Look for any signs of damage that can lower the value, remember that the condition of vintage luggage can affect the price drastically.
We hope you found this article helpful and that it taught you how to recognize vintage cases in a simple manner and that now you have an easy guide to go through whenever you need it.