The world of collector sneakers is more expansive, and quite frankly, more expensive than many would imagine. The most expensive sneakers to ever sell at auction were either worn by a ‘Greatest of All Time’ athlete (read: Michael Jordan) or made in collaboration with a noted actor or artist. Most are purchased by private collectors, some of whom intend to display the historic shoes to the public. The shoes document not only sports’ milestones of the last century but also the sneaker style and design of the corresponding era. Here, presented in chronological order by auction year, are the most expensive sneakers ever sold:
2020: Nike Air Jordan 1 High
Michael Jordan mania is taking over the online auction world. In the second record-breaking sale of the year, game-worn and signed Air Jordan 1 High “Shattered Backboard" from 1985 sold for a phenomenal $615,000 at Christie's and Stadium Goods "Original Air" summer auction. They're now the most expensive sneakers ever sold. Other notable highlights from the same sale included the very pair of the Air Jordan 7 “Olympic” worn in the Dream Team’s gold medal game in 1992, which sold for $112,500; and a pair of Air Jordan 1 TYPS, MJ player exclusive signed sneakers from 1985, that sold for $62,500.
2020: Nike Air Jordan 1s
It's been a big year for Michael Jordan game-worn sneakers. Sotheby's broke sneaker records when they sold Nike Air Jordan 1s for $560,000 in May. The sneakers, which were worn in a 1985 game by Jordan and autographed, sold for more than three times their original estimate, after a frenzy of bidding that saw the value go up by $300,000 in the final 20 minutes
2019: Nike Waffle Racing Flat
Known as the pop culture reference point for the most expensive sneakers ever sold, the Nike Waffle Racing Flat went for $437,500 at auction, despite the estimated sale price hovering in the $160,000 region. Sold at a 2019 Sotheby’s Stadium Goods auction, the shoes were purchased by Miles Spencer Nadal who plans to display the Nikes alongside many other timeless pieces in his private museum. The sneakers are dubbed “Moon Shoes” and were originally designed ahead of the 1972 Olympic Trials for participating runners. Of the 12 pairs, the Moon Shoes sold at auction were the only unworn.
2017: Converse Fastbreaks
This pair of Converse Fastbreaks was game-worm by Michael Jordan, which is how they sold for an at-the-time record of $190,373. Sold by SCP Auctions, Jordan wore them during the gold medal game of the 1984 Olympics—when Team USA defeated Spain. According to SCP, the shoes are “dual signed” and, in 2017, the sneakers had beat the previous record “set in 2013 for a pair of Nike Air Jordan XII shoes Jordan wore in Game 5 of the ‘97 NBA Finals.”
2017: Nike Mag Back to the Future
These sneakers were a collaboration between Nike and the Michael J. Fox Foundation to benefit Parkinson’s research. They released 89 pairs, all auctioned off, and some of which were later resold. The kicks are, of course, a nod to Marty McFly and his somewhat unconventional sneakers worn in Back to the Future. The shoes from the movie lace themselves, and in this image, the Nike Mag Back to the Future sneakers adapt to each wearer with automated lacing technology. One pair sold for as much as $52,000.
2014: Air Jordan 12 OVO
The sneakers were auctioned off on eBay in 2014, when they went for $100,000. The sneakers are replica of Air Jordan sneakers made for Drake. Following an extremely limited public release, a pair of Air Jordan 12 OVOs was given out at a Toronto Raptors game. This was the pair that wound up on eBay. The Air Jordan x Drake collab sneakers weren’t the only hip-hop or rap artist collab sneakers to auction for top dollar in 2014 on eBay (or like sites). Also on eBay, the 2008 Nike x Kanye West collaboration, Air Yeezy 1, went for $49,999. And an Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem pair sold for $37,500 the same year.
2013: Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game”
The Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game” sneakers were game-worn by Michael Jordan, and at the time, set a record when they were sold at auction—until, of course, the Converse Fastbreaks topped that record by more than $85,000. Are you sensing a pattern here? A good rule of thumb when considering valuable collector sneakers at auction is: If they were on Michael Jordan’s feet, they’re going for top dollar. They were worn during game five of the 1997 NBA Finals—when Jordan scored 38 points despite having a flu and high fever—which is how these shoes got their “Flu Game” nickname. Jordan autographed the sneakers and originally gave them to a ball boy. Grey Flannel Auctions later sold them for $104,765 in 2013.