Sure, you could go into your neighborhood sporting goods store and get a pair of Jordan sneakers. And you could go to the toy store next door and get a Matchbox Bentley. So then you’ve got the sneaks and the Bentley, but not exactly the real deal. There are Air Jordans, and then there are the limited edition, only-one-edition, serious Airs that surpass sports collectibles and rival fine art in terms of resale value.
A recent very limited-edition–ten were made–Jordans was a mashup of Eminem’s logo, Carhartt canvas and the Jordan IV profiling never even hit a sales floor. Instead, they were all auctioned on eBay for a total of $227,000. The top seller was a size 9 and sold for $30,000. All the proceeds from these shoes went to Michigan State University’s Community School of Music to increase local enrollment–so the wealthy shoe collectors who got in on the action did a lot of good with their winning bids.
That $30,000 very rare Air Jordan was exactly 42% of the price for the second most expensive Jordans ever–a whopping $71,000 for a pair of Air Ships, the shoes MJ wore while the Air Jordans were still in production.
The most expensive? $104,000 for the “Flu Game” shoe, the Air Jordan12 black/Red he wore in the 1997 Finals against Utah when he was suffering mightily from the flu and collapsed in Scottie Pippen’s arms after the game.
If you missed the beginning of the Air Jordan odyssey, it started when the kid from North Carolina started his first NBA game as a Chicago Bull in 1984 sporting a pair of red and black Nike kicks that, contrary to NBA rules, had no white on the shoe. The league told Jordan he couldn’t wear the shoes and fined him $5,000 per game. His Airness wore the shoes anyway. Here’s how Forbes told the story in 2014.
Nike covered the fines and capitalized on the attention with a commercial with the following voiceover: “On September 15th, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe. On October 18th, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” A marketing juggernaut was born.
Since then, Nike and the Jordan brand have released 29 iterations of the shoe. They re-release certain models, the “retros” from the ’80s and ’90s so you can pick up you favorite model from high school, and they regularly come up with the limited editions that send “sneaker heads”, as the collectors are known, into a frenzy to snap up a pair of the latest Jordan sneaks.
The amazing thing about the Air Jordans is that the limited editions set off buying frenzies like the shoes he actually wore. Nike has turned this into a master class in supply and demand economics and releases new limited edition sneaks every couple of months–most economists would say they are saturating their market and there’s no element of surprise to keep up interest in the shoes, but they’d be very, very wrong. Here are a few of the most sought-after limited edition Airs.