This auction’s got serious sole for the sneaker-obsessed buyer looking for some rare kicks.
On Tuesday, Christie’s debuts an online-only sale focused on the iconic Air Jordan — a chunky-looking Nike style launched in 1985 for basketball legend Michael Jordan — with more than 85 pairs up for grabs. The lots are estimated to fetch between $1,000 and $160,000 apiece.
“[Jordan] really influenced and created an entire new genre of collecting,” said Caitlin Donovan, 33, the Christie’s expert leading this sale. “I think it’s a comprehensive look at his impact through footwear.”
Limited-edition releases of kicks can already fetch premium prices on secondary markets, such as StockX. This sale, which lasts through June 30, marks the latest foray of hypebeast-favored sneakers into the exclusive world of auction houses.
Last summer, Christie’s auctioned 11 pairs of Jordans, including a pair of sneakers MJ himself wore in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, which sold for $112,500. At a Sotheby’s private sale in April, a buyer plunked down a jaw-dropping $1.8 million for the first Yeezy sneakers that Kanye West ever wore.
Air Jordans have long been a hot commodity — even more so on the heels of last year’s Emmy-winning 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance.”
“If you think about the legacy of Jordan himself, he was such an important person in not just sports culture, but also pop culture — and you have this genre of fashion on and off the court,” said Donovan.
Celebrities who have worn Air Jordans include Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Drake and even Boyz II Men at the 1996 Grammys.
“There’s also the element of supply and demand: The idea that these pieces are released in very limited runs, so in order to procure one, you have to go to the secondary market,” Donovan added.
The sale is held in collaboration with Stadium Goods, a New York City-based giant for sneaker and streetwear resale, which sourced the shoes from around the globe.
The auction’s priciest lot: a size 10 original Nike development sample, dating back to the mid-’80s, that’s estimated to fetch between $120,000 and $160,000. It’s believed to be a one-of-a-kind pair whose seemingly blank base helped give rise to other prominent styles, such as the Nike’s Air Python and Air Force 2.
Another lot, this one estimated between $22,000 and $25,000, gets the lucky bidder a rare pair of red-and-black Air Jordan 1’s made in 1984, one year before sales for the style officially launched. Included with a Nike-branded briefcase, this pair was a sample carried around by salesmen to pitch at shoe stores. The shoes themselves, though never for sale, have noticeable wear.
“They were likely being put on by store employees and the buyers at the stores,” said Donovan.
Another rare pair is the coveted 2017 Eminem x Air Jordan 4 “Encore” — a high-top style with a bold blue hue. With an estimated value between $42,000 and $45,000, the style first debuted in 2005 to celebrate Eminem’s “Encore” album. Just 50 pairs were made available to the rapper’s friends and family members. In 2017, the style came back, but in less than half the original amount.
“This is one of the 23 pairs that was unreleased to the public, so this pair is even more collectible,” said Donovan.
Other styles in the auction, which interested bidders can see with their own eyes by appointment only, include a size 16 white high-top from 1996 worn and signed by Charles Barkley — estimated to garner between $3,000 and $5,000.
Similar to works of art or fine antiques, these rare kicks fit into a specific mold — and Donovan sees them as fit for auctions down the line.
“Sneakers really follow suit, which is why it does make sense for us to be stepping into this,” she said.