Vintage Levi’s 501, which is so popular worldwide that it is purchased for investment purposes and the transaction price is soaring. In this article, we will introduce the vintage Levi’s 501 characteristics by age and the market price of each model.
The prices introduced in the article are based on the market prices of vintage clothing stores in Tokyo, according to the author’s research. Prices may change at any time, so please check in advance when considering purchasing.
History of the Vintage Levi’s 501
Work pants worn by miners are the beginning of Levi’s with a long history. The lot number “501”, which is still a symbol today, was first applied in the 1890s.
After that, in 1937 when the United States was recovering from the global Great Depression, in 1944 during World War II, in 1947 after the war, in 1955 when a Hollywood star wearing 501 was projected on the screen, Love & Peace shouted. It was 1966 when it was discovered, and 1976, the year after the end of the Vietnam War.
The Levi’s 501 has changed with the changes in the United States and the world and has become a classic fashion item as “jeans” that are still widely loved today.
Renewed Limelight Amid Changing Trends
In the 1990s, there was a big boom in second-hand clothes, and the price of vintage Levi’s soared at once. However, in the 2000s, American and Italian brand jeans with beautiful legs called “premium denim” swept men’s fashion. Vintage jeans have become an item worn only by some fans.
However, in the latter half of 2010, men’s dress fashion, such as wearing tailored jackets, stagnated, and American casual fashion revived again. The change in fashion trends is scary, and it often happens that items that we thought were trending just a short time ago are outdated without us noticing.
In the image above, the author is holding a 1954 Levi’s 501ZXX. When I visited Harajuku’s long-established vintage second-hand clothing store “BerBerJin” six years ago, he was still able to purchase it for around 70,000 yen.
As of 2023, in order to buy a “Levi’s 501ZXX” of the same age and in the same condition, it should be in the late 100,000 yen range even if it is estimated cheaply.
I have been interested in American casual vintage fashion since before 2020, when the price of vintage clothes soared, so I happened to be able to buy it at a low price. I never dreamed I would.
Features of Vintage Levi’s 501
Here are some of the essential features when talking about the Levi’s 501.
A guarantee of quality is sewn on the back of the waist.
It is a red cloth sewn on the side of the back pocket. There are various designs, and there are also tabs unique to the model.
Anti-fraying on the edges of the fabric on the outside. Also called “ears”. Denim with selvedge is generally more expensive.
Unlike a typical zipper, the 501 model opens and closes with a button on the front. The button fly is adopted because it may lose its shape when the fabric shrinks.
Engraving on the Back of the Button
The back of the top button is engraved with the manufacturing factory and region. Vintages are stamped with one-digit numbers and letters, and two-digit numbers until the 1980s, which can be used as a reference to identify the age.
Representative Model of Levi’s 501 Vintage
“Levi’s 501XX” boasts an overwhelming presence in the vintage clothing industry. Yutaka Fujiwara, the store manager of BerBerJin, who is well-known in the second-hand clothing industry, also uses this product regularly.
At first glance, it doesn’t look much different from the current model 501, but this “XX model” has pocket reinforcement parts called “hidden rivets” on the back of the hip pocket (however, the vintage 501XX Only the last year’s model may not be attached).
Even if you find a vintage 501XX at a second-hand clothing store, most of them are displayed in glass cases or behind cash registers where you can’t touch them, so you can see how rare they are. I think.
For reference, the market price of 501XX as of 2023 is around 300,000 yen in condition with little damage as shown in the image above.
Indigo color residue and size are also factors that affect the price. The lighter the color of the denim, the cheaper the price tends to be, but the 501XX is still priced in the 100,000 yen range.
Levi’s S501XX “Great War Model”
The 501XX models, which are overwhelmingly popular with vintage denim enthusiasts, are subdivided from pre-World War II models to the final 501XX model released in 1996.
The transaction value of the so-called “war model” produced before and during the war easily exceeds 1 million yen. Therefore, it will be vintage jeans suitable for real asset investment. Mr. Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, who is also known as a jeans lover, seems to have this model in his collection.
Levi’s 501XX “47 model”
Released in 1947 after the war, the so-called “47 model” is the pinnacle model of the 501XX that can actually be worn in everyday life.
Enthusiasts call it “the most complete Levi’s 501”, and enthusiasts are fascinated by the thick silhouette and details that give it a rugged impression.
The red tab attached to the hip pocket is embroidered with “LEVIS” on one side only, and the sides around the waist are re-stitched over 20 cm.
Compared to the side stitching of the so-called “53 model” that was remodeled after 1953, you can see the difference at a glance.
For reference, the 47 model I own was given to me by a friend for 100,000 yen. Although the color is diluted, it is the size of Japanese people and has no damage.
The 53 model has a dark indigo color and a leather patch that is easily damaged, so it is thought that the price will be around 300,000 to 400,000 yen.
Levi’s 501ZXX (502)
Zip-fly jeans released by Levi’s in 1954, aiming to expand into the eastern United States. The product number will change to “502” later.
In the image, I compared it side by side with the button fly 501 (left image). The surface of the button fly is uneven between the buttons, and the color has faded three-dimensionally. The zipper fly (right image) has a flat surface, and the color fading is flat.
Levi’s 501 “Big E model”
The “Levi’s 501 Big E”, which appeared in 1967, the year after the production of the 501XX ended, is called Big E because the red tab attached to the hip pocket uses “LEVI’S” and a capital letter E. became.
In the era of the Big E model, the hidden rivets of the 501XX have been simplified and eliminated, and the silhouette has changed significantly as workwear has become a fashion item. It can be said that the evergreen silhouette of the American-made Levi’s 501, which will be discontinued in 2003, was perfected in this Big E era.
Compared to the 501XX, the Big E has a larger number left on the market, and you can still purchase an individual with a solid indigo color. The 501 Big E on the right of the image was purchased by the author at a vintage clothing store in Nagoya three years ago for 160,000 yen. Currently, it is thought that the value will be about 300,000 yen.
Levi’s 501 “66 model”
The so-called “66 early” model manufactured in the 1970s is called the 66 model because the copyright of the paper flasher attached to the new product is described as “1966”.
The 66 model shifted to the “late 66” model in 1977 when the dye was changed. Due to the change in dyes, the color fading peculiar to vintage clothes called “vertical fading” has disappeared, and it has also affected the market.
One of the charms of the first half of 66 is that the sharp vertical drop and the horizontal line around the waist, commonly known as “beard drop”, create a very vintage atmosphere, and the charm of vintage denim can be conveyed at a glance.
Currently, the 66th term, which has about 70% of the color remaining, can be purchased for about 100,000 to 150,000 yen. The late 66 has not changed much from the regular model of the 80’s and 90’s, and the price has not increased much because it has a light vintage feel. I bought it for 6,000 yen).
levis 501 Vintage Value
At the “Durango Vintage Festivus” auction held in the state of New Mexico in the western United States, a Levi’s vintage from the 1880s that was discovered in an abandoned mine appeared and was traded for about 13 million yen (including commission).
Vintage denim is extremely popular in Asian countries such as Thailand and Singapore, and it is believed that the market price will not decline in the future. Individuals that retain their color have a high asset value, and many people aim to purchase them as an investment on the day they arrive at second-hand clothing stores.
We have a track record of trading at high prices even in domestic auctions.
So far, I have told you about the characteristics of the vintage Levi’s 501 model, the difference in details, and the market price. If you are considering purchasing for investment, we recommend the 501XX from the 1940s and 1950s.
If you are considering the 501 Big E of the 1960s or the early 66 of the 1970s, it would be attractive as an asset if you are looking for a dead stock or an individual that keeps the dark blue condition as much as possible.
Over the past five years, vintage denim prices have skyrocketed for both 501s and denim jackets. Considering the growing popularity worldwide, it is thought that the price will not collapse sooner or later.
In the second-hand clothing industry, there is a slogan, “Today’s current price is the cheapest”, so when you come across a good vintage Levi’s 501, you should buy it without hesitation. We hope that this article will help you in your consideration.