Don’t Lose Your Shirt Buying Vintage Levi’s Jeans

June 16, 2008 by Jimmy J  · 3 Comments  

vintage levis jeans big E tagIn 1936, Levi’s began producing jeans with a red tab on the rear pocket and the ‘E’ used in the spelling was a capital. After 1971 it became lower case. “Big E” jeans regularly fetch between $500 to $1,500 on eBay. If rare and expensive is your bag, then don’t get too hung up on case-sensitive tags. Levi’s were patented and first produced in 1873 and they sold for more than 60 years without a red tag.

In 2001 a vintage pair of Levi’s jeans went for $46,542 on eBay. Who would pay such an amount? Well, the Levi Strauss Company did. Apparently they didn’t have any of their own stock left from 1880, so they bought them back… and most likely put them in a warehouse beside the Lost Ark.

Click here to view the most expensive pairs on eBay right now (including one for $10,000!) or scroll down to see what’s currently on the auction block.

So where to begin? Familiarize yourself with the features on Levi’s jeans that will increase their value. Click on the underlined terms below for a targeted search on eBay.

  • Selvedge” can be found by flipping the leg inside-out to see how the seam was constructed. If there’s a strip of surplus material, you’ve got selvedge. If the white portion of that selvedge has a very thin red thread down it, even better. Just because you have selvedge doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a “redline.”
  • Rivets are those little metal tabs that lend corner strength to areas like pockets. In most Levi’s jeans you’ll see the rivets on the outside corners of the pockets. If they aren’t visible from the outside, look inside. And if you notice they’re flat metal backs, you have jeans with “hidden rivets.”
  • Seam construction – less seams means more $. The earlier vintage Levi’s primarily used “single stitch.”
  • As far as color goes, indigo and two-tone are usually more sought after.
vintage levis jeans with selvedge

vintage levis jeans with hidden rivets



  • voi

    This is a fantastic site!! Hidden and rivets anda redline I can only wish

  • Nicole

    Where is the best place to sell old big E red line levis? EBay seems to be stock full and I want to get the best price. Any help would be great. Mine are pretty beat up, holes and tares.

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