If you’re a sneakerhead, you’re no stranger to Nike’s significant presence in secondary markets. Sneaker culture created a demand for new and smart ways for buyers/investors to delve into their passion, leading to the creation of sneaker resale sites like StockX, Stadium Goods, and Fight Club (among others).
In addition to these websites, high-value sneakers are also auctioned off by multinational corporations, like Sotheby’s and its luxury goods auction house, who recognize sneakers, sports memorabilia, and modern collectibles to be in alignment with the “extraordinary objects” featured. Two recent auctions were dedicated to incredibly rare retro selections from the Nike brand; both with immense valuations of the sneakers at play.
Nike’s “The One Line” 1981 Drop - Heritage Auctions
Last Wednesday, Heritage Auctions sold a pair vintage “One Line” Nike knockoffs for $93,750. This pair of sneakers has long been considered one of the most significant in relation to Nike’s history.
It wasn’t an elaborate design that built the pair’s notability - the sneakers were actually knockoffs of Nike’s renowned Oceania running shoes. The style was simple in its design with a blue and white colorway, and lacked all traditional Nike branding- including its identifying swoosh…
“The One Line” was a fictitious competitor created by Nike to continue selling sneakers while negotiating with the U.S. government over a tariff bill stating that fake sneakers had to be “like or similar to” traditional Nike styles. This tariff from the Great Depression Era “The American Selling Price of 1922 (ASP), resulted in Nike being sent a $25 million back payment bill- a huge hit during a time when Nike was still in its early stages.
According to Nike Founder Phil Knight, the creation of “One Line” forced customs to use the “competitor” as a new reference point when deciding import duty. After selling a few thousand pairs of “One Line” sneakers, the company was able to reduce the tariff back payment to $9 million, which was affordable. The “One Line” sneakers are therefore extremely limited, and credited for possibly having saved one of the world’s greatest brands from early destruction.
Intrigued by the style’s intricate backstory, the kicks original owner Mike Mohahan bought the pair for a few bucks in 2018 and has been preserving them since, where they went on to skyrocket in value. If that isn’t a story to inspire sneakerheads looking to invest, I don’t know what is.
“Nike SB | 20 Years” Retrospective - Sotheby's
Sotheby’s first-ever Nike Skateboarding-dedicated auction, entitled “Nike SB | 20 years”, features some of the most sought-after sneakers of all time. Not initially seeing the value in manufacturing skateboarding sneakers, Nike once produced an array of editions in extremely low quantities- as low as 1,000… The last thing Nike wanted was for a new innovation to make a quick run to the clearance racks, and manufacturing a smaller quantity of sneakers limited the risk.
As a nod to 20 years of Nike’s “SB” Skateboarding sub-brand and its impact on sneaker culture, Sotheby’s thoughtfully curated collection features Jeff Staple’s 2005 “Pigeon” SB Dunk (~$40,800 auction estimate), SB Dunk Low Pro “Freddy Krueger”(~$38,000 auction estimate), and “SB DUNK Low Premium ‘Yellow Lobster’ Promo Sample”(~$44,000 auction estimate), among others pairs of similar value.
The low quantities of pairs in existence- not to mention the rarity of pairs still in good condition- drive these incredibly massive prices. Check out this New York Post Article for a breakdown of some of the “big ticket items” listed. Stories behind the Dunks, and an overview of the auction in full, can be found on Sotheby’s website.
While final auction data is spending for the Sotheby’s auction, we can expect to see final valuations this week.