A patron brought in a vintage brown leather hat box with a velvety, mushroom-colored lining. “Bté. SGDG Patent” was stamped on the lock, along with “Made in France,” “Louis Vuitton,” “1 Rue Scribe, Paris,” and “149 New Bond St., London.” Louis Vuitton opened a store at the Paris address in 1871, and his son opened one at the London address in 1889. “Bté. SGDG” is the abbreviation for “Breveté Sans Garantie du Gouvernement” which means "Patented without State Guarantee" and was used up until 1968. All of this information helps date the hat box a little.
The box was also stamped with a six-digit number inside. While Louis Vuitton pieces made in the last thirty years have date codes that can identify when and where they were made, we were unable to find anything to help us decode the number on the hat box.
Our patron was interested in possibly finding patent information for their item. We checked the French patent office (INPI) database, but it didn’t go back as far as we needed. INPI has a separate database called Brevets français 19e siècle set up for their vintage patents. We searched there too, but the information was sparse and nothing seemed to be for a hat box.
A little more searching around brought up an antique dealer’s website. The dealer had posted a hat box that looked very similar to the one our patron had brought in. On the website, the box was dated circa 1910 and valued in the $5,000-$15,000 range. We checked Price It!, one of our library databases, to get an estimate of better estimate of how much the box was worth. Similar items were selling for about $5,000.
We have several books on antiques available here at the library, such as the latest editions of Warman’s Antiques and Collectibles and Antique Trader Antiques and Collectibles. For more information on Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion, and Architecture is available through CLEVNET.