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How To Determine Production Date of Vintage Levi’s 501 Jeans

This guide gives you an overall view of the 8 essential details you should be looking for when determining the production date of vintage Levi's 501 jeans.

The 8 Essential Details You Need to Look For

Some of the most frequently asked questions we get are related to determining the authenticity of vintage jeans, especially vintage Levi’s 501 jeans. This article provides an overall guide to the eight details you should be looking out for when putting a production date to vintage Levi’s 501 jeans, exemplified with this rare pair produced between 1967-1968.

A Study of Levi's Patches: 1967-1968. This guide gives you an overall view of the 8 essential details you should be looking for when determining the production date of vintage Levi's 501 jeans.
Vintage “redline” selvedge denim made by Cone Mills in the 1960s.

1) Selvedge or no selvedge

The first thing you should look for when inspecting vintage 501 jeans is whether it’s a selvedge denim. If so, the jeans are likely to be produced before the mid-1980s.

Learn all there is to know about selvedge denim here!

2) Inspect the red tab

If there’s a Big E on it, you’re well on your way to the big jackpot. If the red tab only has lettering on one side (the one facing the front) the jeans are pre-1955. Still, if it’s a small e red tab has your find might still be worth buying.

A Study of Levi's Patches: 1967-1968. This guide gives you an overall view of the 8 essential details you should be looking for when determining the production date of vintage Levi's 501 jeans.
The iconic Levi’s red tab with a Big E.

3) Care tag

Inspect for a care tag, if you find one the jeans are post-mid-1970s. Be aware that fakes and Levi’s Vintage Clothing jeans can have both Big E and care tag.

4) Single stitch back pockets

Do the jeans have ‘single stitch’ back pockets, i.e. lock stitches and not chain stitches on the horisontal double felled seams on the top of the pockets? If this is the case, the jeans were produced before 1976 (roughly).

5) Rivets

Inspect the rivets. If the back pockets have hidden rivets (replaced by bartack around 1966) and if the back plates of the rivets are silver coloured with lowered letters the jeans are post-1966. If the back plates are copper it’s really getting interesting. And if the letters are raised and not lowered you are holding a pair of pre-1960s jeans, and chances are that you will get goosebumps all over.

6) Patch

Inspect the patch. A leather patch, contrary to the ‘leather-like’ cardboard patch, is an indicator that the jeans were produced before 1955.

7) Buttons

You have probably noticed by now, but the next thing you need to inspect is the front of the buttons. If it’s donut buttons with laurel leafs then the jeans were produced during WWII. This can be verified by painted arcuates (if still visible) and front pocket bags of varying fabrics, e.g. in green. These jeans are very hard to come by.

8) Cinch or no cinch

Another thing you probably noticed right away, if it’s there, is the back cinch. If there is one and everything above has been checked off, then the jeans are pre-1937. This can be verified by a crotch rivet at the base on the button fly. Most jeans this old are on the hands of either the Levi’s Archives or collectors.

Anything older than this, for instance without belt loops or with one back pocket only, is either lying around in the Nevada desert or locked up in a fire and earthquake proof safe, and will probably not be put up for sale for less that what you pay for a midsized car or a trip around the world.

Date of Vintage Levi's 501 Jeans

On page two, we take a closer look at the other details of these jeans and how they can help you determine their production product.

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122 comments

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Matthew Bryan June 11, 2013 at 01:26

Stunning 501s. I appreciate the info a lot. I have a very similar pair of “Big E” single-stitch 1501 0117 jeans with: a #2 button; no F, S, or A stamp on the large paper patch (without the extra pull-off piece on the edge); no V-stitch; no care info printed on the pocket bag; lemon-stitched topstitching on the felled inseam and fly-flap; marigold, mustard, and orange thread elsewhere; and the same beautiful, grainy denim (with a similar fade and “tracks” up both out seams) as in the above pictures. I always wondered if they were made before or after the F, S, A series. Still not sure, but I’m guessing either ’66-’67 ( right before F, S, A series) or 1969 (right after F, S, A series but before care stamp on pocket bag). May be wrong but either way, they are great vintage levi’s, as are the above pair. The only bummer is that someone seam-ripped the chain-stitched hem before I got them, the bastards! At least they didn’t cut them shorter or something. They are a W32xL38 that shrunk (and stretched back out in the waist) to a W32xL34.5. One of those hard to find long-inseam jobs. Without the hems closed, I either gotta roll ’em up, or eventually have them hemmed properly with a Union Special. Anyways, I’m rambling. Thanks for the info, and the primo “denim porn”. Take care.

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Knight January 15, 2014 at 21:58

About how much are children’s Levi’s denim pant size w18 l13 bought in 1980 worth? They are my pants when I was about 6 months old. The length is either 18 or 19. Looks like 18.

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Knight January 15, 2014 at 21:59

Near perfect condition.

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Cynthia Collins January 16, 2014 at 07:18

I have a pair of vintage Levi’s with a capital E in navy blue and white, back of button has 522 on it, zipper has 42 on it.. These navy blue jeans have no rivets on pockets and pockets on back are same as the ones on front.. I can’t find any like it to compare to so I’m lost when it comes to age. Please help… Ty cyndi

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Cynthia Collins January 16, 2014 at 07:18

I have a pair of vintage Levi’s with a capital E in navy blue and white, back of button has 522 on it, zipper has 42 on it.. These navy blue jeans have no rivets on pockets and pockets on back are same as the ones on front.. I can’t find any like it to compare to so I’m lost when it comes to age. Please help… Ty cyndi

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Sar February 22, 2014 at 08:28

I found a mens Big E Levi’s jean jacket sz 48.. 507 xx… How to tell if this is an orginal vintage jacket.. or a replica? The tags look fairly old but the jacket is in excellent shape.. barely any wear, the tag says 555.. and i believe its a 2nd edition jacket from the 50s but can’t be sure.. any advice

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Denimhunters February 22, 2014 at 09:39

Sounds like you’ve got a jacket made at the Valencia St factory.

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Mike February 24, 2014 at 19:25

I just bought some stuff from a long time local Levi store that has closed. Included was a roll of the patches that go onto the back of the jeans. They told me that they were obtained from a Levi’s salesman back in the 1960s or 70s. I have not been able to locate any similar rolls being offered and wondered if you might be familiar with this item or how I can date the patch. Thanks!

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Chantelle April 9, 2014 at 10:59

Can anyone help me with these are they originals if so what year my dad has had them for years never worn at all

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Denimhunters April 9, 2014 at 11:03

Hi Chantelle,
I have a hard time figuring out what you are asking? Do you want us to help you identify the production year of some jeans your father has?

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Chantelle April 9, 2014 at 11:00

Please help

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Chantelle April 9, 2014 at 11:20

These jeans

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Denimhunters April 9, 2014 at 11:31

This looks like a pair of 90s, maybe even early 00s, jeans. I’m sure they are great, but they are not a collectors items, which means they probably won’t sell for very much. Apart from that, with the very limited possibilities of evaluating them based only on this slightly blurry picture, they look genuine.

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Anti NWO April 22, 2014 at 18:57

Thanks for a nice informative site! I found these earlier today and started googling, and found you. Are these worth anything? I noticed the white jeans have a large E for instance. Thanks a lot!

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Anti NWO April 22, 2014 at 19:01

Here’s a close up of the label with the large E. Thanks again 😉

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Clare Phipps April 24, 2014 at 18:27

I have a pair of Levi’s that my nan had when she was younger but I can’t find any info on them just wondered if u can tell me if they r fake

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Afandi May 18, 2014 at 03:03

I have lvc 1947 with button code 4420.Do you have any idea about 4420 button code?is my pair is a fake and if original lvc which factory my pair made of?

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