Sotheby's is staging its first international dedicated sneaker sale, seeing the boom in a formerly niche market as a way to attract younger clients into the world of auctions.
Fine art, jewellery and antiques might be the more traditional stock in auction house trade, complete with a packed room and auctioneer banging a wooden gavel. But the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a shift towards smartphone-accessible online auctions, reports AFP.
Sotheby's says it has also noticed that younger people are being drawn to auctions by design classics with a back story.
On Monday, the auction house sold a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 1s worn by rapper Kanye West for $1.8 million, triple the previous record for sneakers. That sale is being followed by "Gamers Only", Sotheby's debut global dedicated sneaker auction, conducted entirely online, according to the AFP report.
It features 13 pairs of match-worn basketball shoes from some of the NBA's greatest athletes, including Michael Jordan's red sneakers, which he wore in 1984-85, at the start of his Chicago Bulls career. They are expected to fetch over $100,000, Sotheby's said on Wednesday. Another pair, identical but bearing Jordan's autograph, was sold for $560,000 at an auction last year, reports Reuters.
The dedicated sneakers sale runs until 1400 GMT on 12 May.
Josh Pullan, managing director of Sotheby's global luxury division, said that aged between 20 and 40, the client profile for sneaker sales was generally younger than in regular auctions, states AFP. "What's also really interesting is that more than 50 percent of the buyers and bidders are new to Sotheby's, so we're seeing this as a great way to bring in new clients," he told AFP.
Pullan said that the auction house made a major shift towards digital sales last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, "and there's no going back", he said.
"The sneakers category is really exploding," Pullan said. "We're seeing that collectors who are passionate about a category and understand design and a story attached to those items are prepared to chase and purchase those items," he said.
"This is a market that we see growing as people's understanding and appreciation continues to grow. That means more people in the space, more competition and more excitement."