If you have an old leather suitcase sitting in the back of a closet or stashed in the attic, you may be surprised to hear that it could be a valuable antique. Suitcases made from leather can deteriorate over time, so condition is key. In order to sell your suitcase, you will need to make sure it is in relatively good repair and establish what company produced the suitcase. But identifying an antique leather suitcase is often the hardest part of the selling process. Once you know who made the case, you will be able to sell it for cash.
Search the exterior and interior of the item for any identifying marks, such as company name, serial number or style name. The maker's marks may be located on the lining, or inside an interior pocket, so look closely. You can then search for this name on a list of vintage/antique suitcase manufacturers to see if the company is still in business. If they are, you may be able to contact the company directly for information on the specific model and its market value. One such list of companies can be found at the Arts and Crafts Home website (listed in this article's References section) under "A History of Vintage Luggage."
Check the suitcase to see if there is a luggage tag belonging to a previous owner. They may have the original receipt, or be able to help you identify where and when the suitcase was purchased.
Look for a Royal Warrant stamp or town identification stamp. For English-made leather goods, certain companies like Mappin and Webb or A. Barrett and Sons used a Royal Warrant seal to show that they had a special relationship with the crown and to reinforce the idea that they made top-quality goods. Other English luggage firms would stamp their products with a stamp that named the city where they were located. These seals should be prominently placed within the item's interior.
Hire an appraiser, or try your luck when traveling appraisers like PBS' "Antiques Roadshow" come to your city. An appraiser who specializes in luggage or leather goods will be of the most assistance, and such a person may be found through a search of business telephone directories or the Internet.
If you can't find any identifying marks, try comparing your suitcase to the inventory of an online suitcase retailer. If you find one that is similar to yours, you may be able to identify the manufacturer.
- Beware of counterfeit goods. Particularly with the firm of Louis Vuitton, unscrupulous people may try to sell goods that have been made to look like they were produced by a famous name like Vuitton.
Tucker Cummings is a freelance writer based in New England. She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of New Hampshire and is a member of the Association of Professional Business Writers. Cummings is also a food writer and curates the blog, Brave New Breakfast.