Shopping for Vintage Tooled Leather

I always do quite well with Tooled Leather Handbags/wallets/clutches on my Etsy shop. They seem to be in style no matter the season. Whether your style is Boho Chic or Country and Western, these bags are hot! I avoid the touristy designed bags with “Mexico” or whatever other vacation destination designs are worked into them. I prefer the high quality items that are vintage and were created by hand and not pressed by machines. I imagine a workshop somewhere in the desert where an older gentleman wearing cowboy garb and a turquoise studded belt sits for hours surrounded by his tools of trade and hammers out beautiful belts and bags and wallets for people to buy as mementos for their family holiday.

I rarely pass up the opportunity to pick one of these up. Even if the bag is monogrammed with someone else’s name I find that it only adds to the charm. I once had a bag with the name “Velda” monogrammed into it. What a name! It didn’t take long for someone to snatch it up. I have always been fascinated with tooled leather anything, ever since I watched a program on T.V. on how they were created. It is such a long and tedious process of soaking the leather to soften it and then hammering and etching images in with all sorts of little tools. I have had bags with all sorts of designs on them…Horses, Roses, Monogrammed, Vines and Scrolls. The amount of time and attention to detail it takes to create these bags is amazing. I really appreciate people who dedicate their time to creating art like this. Because that’s what these handbags are; they are pieces of art.




I never leave a garage sale or second hand shop without checking out the purses. If I am lucky enough to find a tooled leather bag I will go over it with a fine tooth comb. These are the things I will look for:

  1. What is the image? Is this image tacky like a tourist resort image? If so I put it back.
  2. I check for cracking in the leather. The strap, the flap, the corners.
  3. Is there leather binding holding the different sections together? If so are they intact? If there is any breakage I will pass on the bag.
  4. Do the zippers run smoothly?
  5. How are the closures? Do the snaps work well? Do the buckles have all their parts?
  6. Often they will have brass feet. Are they all there?
  7. Look inside to see if there are stains or tears.
  8. Are there any dents or scratches in the leather anywhere?
  9. A very important thing to check…Does this bag smell bad? Smoke or pet smells turn people off!
  10. Finally…Would I use this handbag? If the answer is yes than I will take it home, clean it and set it aside to be photographed for the Etsy shop.

If you’re interested in vintage tooled leather accessories, hop over to my shop and see what we have in stock.