We all know that number that we see inside a Vuitton bag, and it really isn't a serial number like you have on most bags. Contrary to popular belief, serial numbers are only assigned to Made-to-Order items. So what are those numbers and letters that we being stamped onto the interior (or the exterior for the Noé), either on the item itself or on a leather piece attached somewhere inside the bag? Well, it's actually known as a Date Code, which reveals when and where (i.e. the country in which it was produced) the item in question was made.
The Evolution of Date Codes
Pre-1980: no date codes
Early 1980s: 3- to 4-digit Date Codes which denote the month and year in which the item was made. The first 2 numbers indicate the year, while the last 2 correspond to the month. (e.g. 849 = September 1984).
Mid- to Late 1980s: This was when Louis Vuitton began to add 2 alphabets to the previous 3-4 digit Date code as above, with the letters indicating the factory location. (e.g. VI8712 = France, December 1987). Depending on the item, the date code may be split, with letters in one place and numbers in another. By the late 1980s, however, Louis Vuitton had standardised this so that all date codes appear with letters preceding the numbers in the same area.
1990-2006 - Since 1990, Louis Vuitton had switched it up a little. Although the letters still come before the numbers, the first and third numbers now represent the month, while the second and fourth denote the year. (e.g. CA0025 = Made in Spain, February 2005)
2007-present day (2015): In 2007, Louis Vuitton began to use the week format, instead of the month. So while the letters still represent the country, and the 2nd and 4th numbers the year, the first and third numbers now indicate the week of the year. (e.g. SD5120 = Made in USA, in the last week of 2010).
Do note that when you have sent your bag to Vuitton to be repaired (especially the interior), don't be alarmed to find a new date code after repair. This is because Vuitton will not repeat nor use the same date code once the bag has been sent in for repairs. Instead, a new date code would be added. And it doesn't stop there. Let's say the interior lining of your Made in USA Vuitton bag tears while you're in France, and you decide to send it in for repair because, hey, you're in the brand's country of origin, aren't you? When you get your bag back, not only will you have a new date code as explained above, you'd also get different letters attached to the date code, to denote that it was repaired in France. So, if you're If you're purchasing a preloved or vintage item, it would help a great deal if you check whether the bag had previously been repaired, especially when you notice conflicting date codes. If the owner tells you that yes, it had previously been repaired, but you don't see that reflected in the date code, then well, you know there's something fishy going on.
At this point, you're probably wondering how you can tell the country of manufacture just by looking at the alphabets. Well, here you go. But, before I proceed with that, do note that, yes, there are Made in USA bags for Vuitton, but this isn't specific to the models. For example, you could purchase a Neverfull GM in the US (Made in USA), and your friend could have purchased a Neverfull GM in Singapore (Made in France). No, the "Made in USA" one isn't fake, just less common, which is why many of us are baffled when we see the "Made in USA" tag because we expect it to be only made in France. Did you know that Vuitton actually has factories in Spain, France, USA, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland?
France: A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS (special order), AH, AN, AR, AS, AX, BA, BJ, BU, CO, CT, CV, DR, DU, ET, FL (also USA), GR, IT, LW, MB, MI, MS, NO, RA, RE (also Italy), RI, SA (also Italy), SD (also USA), SF, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TH, TJ, TN, TR, TS, VI, VX
Italy: BC, BO, CE, FA, FO, MA, NQ, PL, RC, RE (also France), RO, SA (also France), ST, TD
Spain: CA, CR, JI, LB, LM, LO, LW
Switzerland: DI, FA (also Italy)
USA: FC, FH, FL (also France) LA, OS, SD (also France), FL