A pair of original Air Jordan sneakers created during Michael Jordan’s rookie season sold for $560,000 Sunday afternoon at Sotheby’s, setting a new auction record for any pair of athletic shoes.
Following a bidding war which drove the value up by $300,000 within the final twenty minutes of the sale, the pair achieved more than 3.5x their $150,000 high estimate. Bidders ranging from age 19 to 50+ participated across 4 continents, with 70% of bidders new to Sotheby’s.
Made by Nike exclusively for Jordan, the pair represents the first ever signature sneaker, paving the way for other star players to have their own signature shoes.
The shoes were consigned by Jordan Geller, noted sneaker collector and founder of the Shoezeum, the world’s first sneaker museum, located in Las Vegas.
The red,white and black Jordans carry the coding ‘850204 TYPS’ being a reference to the year and month they were made, as well as ‘player sample’, indicating their manufacture for Jordan. The right shoe is autographed in black permanent marker.
“They were the crown jewel of the museum,” Geller stated. “Owning this pair has been a real pleasure, and with all the excitement surrounding Michael Jordan and ‘The Last Dance’, my wife and I decided that it’s time to let the shoes find a new home.”
The final, realized price broke the record set last year when a pair of 1972 Nike waffle racing flat “Moon Shoes” sold for $437,500 at Sotheby’s
In 1984, Nike gave Jordan a signature line of shoes and clothes – a crucial, unprecedented move to entice him to sign with the young company. Produced between February to April 1985, Jordan wore the shoes during an early, pivotal point of his career and thus catapulted the sneaker’s popularity. He wore Air Jordan 1s until October 29, 1985, when he broke his foot and missed 64 games during his second season while healing. He wore modified versions of the Air Jordan 1 upon his return to the game.
Nike released at least 20 different colorways of the Original Air Jordans – unheard of at the time, with most basketball shoes plain and simple, offered in white and black, white and grey, white and navy, and occasionally white and red.
In 1984, Michael Jordan’s black and red shoes (Air Ships) became controversial after the NBA sent a letter to Nike in February of 1985 informing the company that Jordan’s colorful shoes were a violation of the league’s uniformity of uniform clause, and forbid Jordan from wearing them. Nike responded by creating an ad campaign around Jordan’s banned shoes, remarking that while “the NBA threw them out of the game, fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” The Air Jordan 1s were created in the wake of the famous banned Nike ad campaign.