Crocodile or not? How to ascertain the value of your vintage bag.

Among the questions we most receive from our clients is a request to assess the bag in their possession, simply by sending us a photo of it. Was it made with genuine exotic animal skin? Or to what particular species does it belong? How much might it be worth? Does it still have value?

Perhaps it is a bag that was inherited from their grandmother or an article purchased while visiting an exotic country. Or simply a bag bought at the mall or on E-bay and Amazon.

Although we seek to respond to everyone, providing some direction, you must understand that the question is not as simple as it seems, and it is not always possible to respond to you correctly. This depends on many factors. Here we can list a few to help you understand how a simple question can become a complicated one – especially if the quality of the photo is limited.

First, it must be established if the bag in question was made with genuine exotic leather (such as crocodile, alligator, python) or just genuine leather (calfskin for example) but imprinted. As you can imagine, the difference in value is substantially great.

Handbag croco

Know that nowadays, the Italian tanneries have become so good at reproducing the exotic look – making them appear almost authentic – simply by imprinting, so that even we, who work closely with this leather, find difficulty in confirming which type of leather it truly is!

We, for example, have had at the beginning of our production a leather of this type: the cocco “Ligator”. It was not true exotic leather, but a mixture of reptile skin remains and calf leather, processed and reproduced with alligator imprinting. The bags produced with this leather were really beautiful!

Other times, instead, we see photos of bags created with genuine crocodile leather but they were made so badly that even a bag of synthetic leather would have more value!

Seeing a photo of a bag, it is difficult to affirm with certainty whether the leather in question is imprinted or authentic. We can only presume, not confirm.

There are of course also tricks for discovering immediately the true origin of a leather. One is its pattern. Look at the bag: there cannot be two bellies/backs of crocodile/python on the same skin without having seams in between them. Most likely, making only this small observation, you will remove many doubts.

If instead it is confirmed that the leather used for your bag is truly that of an exotic animal, the next question that may be asked is if it is alligator or crocodile. Some even seek to discover which species of crocodile was used.

Python is recognized immediately, and fortunately, other questions are not often faced regarding this type of leather.

Dear readers, we want to reassure you.

If you have in front of you a bag made of genuine reptile, it is not all that important to know if it is alligator or crocodile or, even more, from what species it came from. They are other more important characteristics. Yes, it’s true, that alligator and crocodile differ slightly from one another – both in the price of the leather and even slightly in prestige, but this is not fundamental: your bag is an article in precious leather, in either case. For the purposes of use and care, it will not make any difference whether it is crocodile or alligator (yet be careful not to confuse them with caiman).

Crocodile and alligator look a lot alike.

It is already difficult to recognize a genuine skin from a false one, imagine identifying the various species! There are so many and they possess such similar aspects, that even for an expert it is difficult to discern. It is important to know the species when purchasing the bag, to understand if it is of an animal marketed legally or of an animal forbidden to trade. If, instead, the bag is already in your possession … simply enjoy it.

The most important thing when considering value, instead, is the quality of the working of the leather, from the tanning to the coloration. These factors will determine the softness of the leather, the durability of use and quality of the color fastness. Touch it, see it, feel it. Evaluate its softness and flexibility. Check the coloring between the scales, the homogeneity along the entire length of the leather.

Another equally important aspect is the quality of the leather itself. The presence (or absence) of small defects, for example tiny imperfections, streaks or striations, obtained by the animal in the course of its life are rather normal, especially if it is the skin of an adult animal. It is natural that you might prefer a total absence of them, but we can affirm that small imperfections on the leather are not considered defects.

Another factor to consider is the part of hide that is used. Often seen, searching the web, are bags produced using the back of the animal: this part, which has “the horns”, is very stiff, difficult to work well with and aesthetically very “aggressive”. In Italy, that part does not get used, precisely because it is impossible to tan or color it in a sufficient way.

Therefore, if you see a “made in Italy” bag created with the part of the crocodile/alligator back, then know that in front of you is one of two cases: either it is not exotic leather, but imprinted, or it is not a bag produced in Italy.

For a quality product, the part used is always and only the central part of the belly, separate from the legs, tail and neck, which are cut out and not included. It can happen, sometimes, that to save money, some manufacturers also make use of these elements, however, they compromise the finished appearance of the article.

Something else to be observed is the size of the leather used. If when looking the front of your bag, you see that only a single hide was used and is of large dimension, then the bag will surely be more valuable and expensive than one in which various small pieces were used and sewn together. Be aware however in finding two alligator/crocodile bellies in the same piece: in that case, it is surely a fake.

To complicate the question even a little bit more, don’t forget that it could also be synthetic leather embossed with an exotic leather print! But that’s another story.

If you are interested in these discussions, in future articles we will address and expand on the following topics:

  1. How to distinguish imprinted natural leather from genuine exotic leather. Are there tips for instantly recognizing imprinted leather?
  2. How to differentiate between crocodile and alligator. Their peculiarities and characteristics. Which is the most valuable?
  3. How do you distinguish the precious leather of crocodile/alligator from that of the caiman? Why is caiman leather inferior to those of crocodile and alligator?
  4. What factors into the price of a crocodile bag? Why is the price often very different even when at first glance you do not see the difference? What do you look out for?


And that’s not all. Follow us and we will share with you everything we know, having worked closely with exotic leathers for more than 15 years.

UPDATE: From today you can also request a consultation for your vintage bag, by simply clicking here.

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5 thoughts on “Crocodile or not? How to ascertain the value of your vintage bag.

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    Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to
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    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums
    that go over the same topics? Thank you so much!


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