It goes without saying that Chanel's Classic Flap Bag is one of fashion's most iconic styles. Soon after Karl Lagerfeld joined the label in the mid-1980's, the bag debuted. Designed with the modern woman in mind, the Classic Flap featured a more recognizable "CC" turn lock closure and leather woven straps. Its popularity was nearly instantaneous, but along with the fame came counterfeiting concerns. In attempt to limit forgeries, Chanel added serial number stickers to denote a bag's authenticity and indicate where a bag was made. Each of these numbers is unique to the bag in which it's found, and no number is repeated. The earliest of serial numbers were printed on white stickers featuring subtle interlocking "CC" logos. An example from a vintage bag, produced in the late 1980's or early 1990's, is pictured below on the left (1150352). By the 1990s, Chanel evolved from the original white sticker to one with more distinguishable "CC" logos. The serial number located on the center below (4413502) is from between 1996 and 1997. Since then, Chanel has continued anti-counterfeiting efforts. The serial number below on the right (20981143) is from 2015, and is a good example of a newer sticker. These serial numbers are printed on two-layered holographic stickers. The bottom layer is printed with the serial number and incised with an X, making it impossible to remove without destroying the sticker. The top sparkly holographic layer has an embedded vertical strip imprinted with the Chanel name.
Serial number stickers can be affixed directly to the interior linings or onto leather tags that are sewn into inside seams. Chanel items also come with numbered authenticity cards (like the one pictured below) that match the number that's printed on the inside sticker. Like the stickers, the cards are distinctively printed to prevent forgeries.
The Chanel serial number format has remained essentially the same since its introduction. We have broken down the serial numbers by the one or two digit sequences that they begin with, which are sometimes referred to as a series. Pre-2005 bags have seven digit date codes, and post-2005 bags have eight digit date codes. Due to variances in the number of Chanel items produced each year, some series correspond to multiple years while other were sometimes used for only a period of one year. Here is a quick guide: