Christie’s is now taking its turn in the high-value sneaker market. On Thursday, in the first sale of its kind at the auction house, Christie’s announced it will offer a trove of original Michael Jordan sneakers hailing from the player’s early career with the Chicago Bulls in the 1980s. The auction will bring a total of 11 lots to bidders in an online sale that will run from July 20 to August 13.
Christie’s has tapped Stadium Goods, a sneaker retailer, to host the sale dubbed “Original Air: A Sale of Michael Jordan GameWorn and Player Exclusive Sneaker Rarities.” An era-defining pop-culture moment that eventually grew into Jordan’s monumental global brand commenced in 1985, with the inaugural release of the player’s Nike Air Jordan 1. With Jordan in his first years with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s, the Nike partnership was a landmark deal in professional sports.
Leading the sale are rare vintage pairs at various price points. A Nike Air Ship Jordan worn during his preprofessional season (predating the Nike deal) will be on offer at a value of $350,000 to $550,000. A pair of Air Jordans 7 “Olympic” worn in his 1992 United States men’s Olympic “Dream Team” game carries an estimate of $50,000–$70,000; and a pair of classic Jordan 14s practice-worn before his final Bulls game come to the market with an estimated value of $6,000–$8,000. A portion of the sale’s profits will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The sale responds to broadening demand for pop-culture products in the luxury sector. The Christie’s partnership with Stadium Goods allows the house to access a base of prospective clients outside the fine art world. The auction comes on the heels of the viral documentary series The Last Dance, which follows Jordan’s nearly two-decade career, along with Sotheby’s one-lot sale of Jordan’s 1985 game-worn shoe in May that found a buyer for a record price of $560,000.
“Michael Jordan’s tremendous impact on basketball and sneakers is universally acknowledged, and it can be easy to think there aren’t any new stories to add to the legend. As we’ve seen with The Last Dance and now with our ‘Original Air’ auction with Christie’s, there are still lesser known narratives in the legacy that create great interest,” said John McPheters, cofounder and CEO of Stadium Goods, in a statement.
Streetwear and hype sales have been on the rise in the auction market. “This highly curated sale marks Christie’s entry into a new collecting category that merges sports’ history, art, fashion, and contemporary lifestyle following the great success of our Hype sale in December 2019,” said Aline Sylla-Walbaum, global managing director of luxury at Christie’s. “We sought to offer only the highest quality pieces in the same way we evaluate items for Christie’s Luxury sales—looking for quality, rarity, and uniqueness of design.”
Christie’s is also staging two online sales alongside “Original Air,” as part of the new sports-centered sale series titled Gamechangers. A private selling showcase, “For Love of the Game” will be open from July 20 to August 14. The second auction will offer works by American sports photographer Walter Iooss Jr. to online bidders from July 23 to August 11.