The very first suitcases were baskets made from natural materials, next came those made from animal skins and leather. The Otzi the Iceman who was found well-preserved in the 90s and lived in 5300 BC, carried a leather bag suspended in a wood-ribbed backpack. The ancient Romans may have had the first proper suitcases. By the 1800s, the suitcase was made of cowhide stretched over a wooden frame. Over time, vinyl and cardboard, plastic and metal were used for making suitcases as well. Old suitcases are still available today.
Antique stores can be a place to find vintage luggage. While it will probably not date back to the time of Otzi, you will be able to find a selection of vintage leather suitcases. The antique luggage may feature leather straps, old luggage tags, old stickers from past trips, cloth linings, leather compartments, metal buckles, and even metal or leather-protected corners. Thanks to the inevitable abuse that these antique suitcases may have undergone, the condition of them might be good to fair.
Some shops specialise in or just carry vintage leather luggage. These may be available online or in a store. The suitcases will be from different eras and in various states of condition. The colours of the leather suitcases will vary from deep red to black colours. Talk with the store owners about the proper care of these antique suitcases. Examples of stores that carry these cases are Brownrigg, Ats and Crafts Home, Henry Greggory, and Brettuns Village.
Auctions will be another source for these items, whether online or in person. The auction may carry entire sets of matching luggage that may include suitcases as well as other vintage luggage, or the suitcases may be sold on their own. Try to inspect the suitcases as carefully as possible to determine their condition and whether or not, they are actually antique. Bring an expert with you if you are not sure. Vintage suitcases are also available at online auctions such as eBay. At these auctions, since you will not be able to inspect the suitcases, it will be necessary to get as much information about the pieces before you buy them.