Collector Nick Fiorella won the bid for the Nike Air Ships at a Sotheby’s auction on Sunday. Jordan wore the shoes in a game on November 1, 1984, CNN said. The auction house estimated the sneakers would sell for about $1 million before bidding began.
“To present such a groundbreaking and important pair of sneakers at this special auction in Las Vegas further solidifies the strength and broad reach of the sneaker collecting community,” said Brahm Wachter, head of Sotheby’s streetwear and modern collectibles department.
Shoe brands signed NBA players to endorsement deals before Michael Jordan entered the league. But His Airness and Nike revolutionized the market. He and Nike have sold billions worth of Air Jordans and Jumpman sneakers since then. Now, most top NBA draft picks get a shoe line before they even step on the court.
But while the Michael Jordan shoes scored big at auction, they’re not the most expensive pair of shoes ever sold. That honor belongs to someone who never played professional sports. A pair of Kanye West’s Air Nike Yeezy samples fetched $1.8 million in a private sale earlier this year, CNN reported.
Michael Jordan Shoes Latest Big Sell in Memorabilia Boom
The sports memorabilia market is hotter than ever in recent years. The 1984 Michael Jordan Air Ships are just the latest sports item to break the scales at auction.
An autographed Patrick Mahomes rookie card sold for a staggering $4.3 million in July. That broke the previous record for a football card, which belonged to Tom Brady. His rookie card sold only for a then-record $3.1 million only a few months earlier.
Sports collectibles are big business, and thanks to the pandemic, business is better than ever. People who were stuck at home started taking up old hobbies, Bloomberg reported, which fueled the latest explosion in memorabilia.
“We’ve certainly seen a lot of growth and interest over the past several years, but it’s been growing exponentially since the spring,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. “When the pandemic started we were tightening our belts, but to my surprise, our spring catalog auction surpassed our estimates by over 30%, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.”
But for the big-money collectors, this has little to do with reclaiming their youth. Sports collectibles are investments not unlike art or rare coins.
“In addition to nostalgia, there are also a lot of economic factors,” Ivy told Bloomberg. “Money is cheap right now, and people are buying hard assets to hedge against future inflation.”
Consider the “Holy Grail” of the sports collectible world — the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card. In 1991, the former owner of the LA Kings Bruce McNall purchased it for $451,000. That card sold at auction in August for $6.6 million. More than $1.4 million than it sold for only eight months earlier, ESPN reported.