If you shop carefully and take your time, you will find the best bag that will serve you for a lifetime. Remember that the price of your vintage alligator or crocodile bag is based not only on its condition, but also on its quality: grade, cut, pattern, and finish.
GRADE: Alligator skins selected for manufacturing are graded by 5 categories, and judged by the shape of the skin, presence of scars, cuts, scratches or holes, and "buttons" (osteoderms). The fewer the flaws, the higher the grade is. Look for the bags with a fine, even surface texture that does not have any scars or "buttons" (thicker sports).
CUT: The underbelly skin is considered to be the primary leather for making bags. It consists of two cuts: a central-pattern cut and an outside-of-pattern cut. A neat, central-pattern cut is divided into 3 main areas: belly, head, and tail. A belly cut is the most desirable because of its superb symmetry. It usually features an umbilical scar, which is often displayed prominently on the front of the handbag. Flexible head cuts, composed of smaller scales, are used for gussets. Tail cuts with tile-scales arranged horizontally are for the bottoms. The outside-the-pattern cuts (head and tail) are less valuable, because of their random scale pattern.
PATTERN: Symmetrical central patterns indicate the highest quality. Off-centered patterns have lesser value. Random patterns are least desirable. A bag made of perfectly matched, symmetrical patterns on both sides represents the best quality.
FINISHES: For decades, tanners around the world have struggled to master the perfect finish that ads that final magic touch to the splendor of exotic skins. Depending on the decade and the country of origin, different technologies and methods have been used to create three basic types of finishes: glaze, matte and bombe.
Glazed Finish (or classic finish) can vary in intensity and brilliance, depending on the maker and tannery: Lucille de Paris and Coblentz (medium-shine glaze); Bellestone (high-intensity glaze); French brands (low-intensity glaze).
Matte Finish is a subtle treatment with a soft glow used primarily by French (Hermes) and Italian (Gucci) masters, one of the most expensive finishes contrary to the popular belief that the glossier the bag, the better.
Bombe Finish is a well-fixed, brilliant gloss achieved by applying heat to flat, polished skins and by slightly raising the center of each scale to achieve an effect of high definition (Rosenfeld handbags).