The process of coalescence of two identical liquid drops is simulated numerically in the framework of two essentially different mathematical models, and the results are compared with experimental data on the very early stages of the coalescence process reported recently. The first model tested is the "conventional" one, where it is assumed that coalescence as the formation of a single body of fluid occurs by an instant appearance of a liquid bridge smoothly connecting the two drops, and the subsequent process is the evolution of this single body of fluid driven by capillary forces. The second model under investigation considers coalescence as a process where a section of the free surface becomes trapped between the bulk phases as the drops are pressed against each other, and it is the gradual disappearance of this "internal interface" that leads to the formation of a single body of fluid and the conventional model taking over. Using the full numerical solution of the problem in the framework of each of the two models, we show that the recently reported electrical measurements probing the very early stages of the process are better described by the interface formation/disappearance model. New theory-guided experiments are suggested that would help to further elucidate the details of the coalescence phenomenon. As a by-product of our research, the range of validity of different "scaling laws" advanced as approximate solutions to the problem formulated using the conventional model is established. © 2012 American Institute of Physics.