Across our great land, spring-cleaning is now underway: Cellars are being swept clean, attics emptied, and closets meticulously weeded out. And how will all that stuff be disposed of? Rummage sales, yards sales, Salvation Army, Goodwill-you name it.
So, you find an old pair of Levi 684 bell-bottoms in fairly good condition at the church rummage sale for $2. Too bad for whoever donated them that they didn't know they could have sold them at an online auction for up to $85!
Or someone finally cleaned out that box in the attic with Dad's old jeans from the 1950's. At their yard sale, you pick up a very nice pair of 501XX Big E's for 50 cents. Too bad for them they didn't know the jeans could have sold on the Internet for $1000!!!
And at the Goodwill, you spy a 506 XX Big E jacket for $5 (how did that get through to the sales floor?!?). Whoever donated it should have taken a $1500 write-off on their taxes, because that's what it's worth online.
Yes, this is an excellent time to be a collector of vintage Levi's!
First patented and sold in 1873 for the working crowd, Levi's riveted jeans were eventually appropriated as fashion statements by the rebellious and disaffected youth of the '50s (think James Dean and a young Marlon Brando). Vintage Levi's are now in demand around the world, with collectors willing to pay many times their original values. (The Levi Strauss company paid the largest sum ever, $46,532, in 2001 when they won an eBay auction for a pair of jeans dating to 1880.)
So, how do you know if you've got a pair of vintage Levi's? Well, it helps to know when the company added or changed features. For example, remember the "Big E" mentioned earlier? In 1936, the company added a red tab, bearing the "LEVI" name, to the back pocket. In 1971, the capital letter "E" was change to the lower-case "e." Over time, there have been changes to the back patch, number of pockets, etc., as well.
In the case of jeans (as in any other collectible) knowledge certainly pays, so the following recommended books and sites will help you:
Related Web Sites
History and Timeline at the official Levi Strauss & Co. Web site.
Jeans: the True Blue Facts
AntiqueWeb: Vintage Clothing
"This Is a Pair of Levi's Jeans: The Official History of the Levi's Brand,"
by Lynn Downey, Jill Novack Lynch, Kathleen McDonough, Moda Designs Incorportated (Illustrator)
"Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks, A Visual History of the World's Most Legendary Fabric,"
by Graham Marsh (Editor), Paul Trynka (Editor)