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Jordan Shoes Keep Going Up in Value

by Paul Angilly
November 23, 2004

In his younger days, Alex Wang was like many of his peers that came of age in the í80s and í90s -- he liked Michael Jordan and he liked to wear a good, stylish pair of sneakers.

"Everybody wanted to be Jordan," he recalled -- and everyone wanted to wear Jordanís shoes.

As a Foot Locker employee, Wang had the advantage of an employee discount. So when the Air Jordan line of shoes was introduced, he didnít just buy one pair -- he bought a pair to wear and a pair to save for the future, when the first pair might wear out.

But that second pair never got worn.

Instead, as a new style in the Air Jordan line was made each year, he continued buying a new pair to wear and a pair to save.

"I just kind of kept accumulating them. Before I knew it I had 20 pairs sitting there brand new," Wang said.

Suddenly, the footwear became a collectible. Wang, who also collected basketball cards while growing up, began researching to find out more about the Jordan line and decided he wanted to fill out his collection with all the different styles and colors made available over the years that he didnít already have.

Today, his collection includes several hundred pairs of never-worn shoes from many different sneaker lines. But, he said, the Air Jordans will always be the centerpiece of his collection -- and even now heís still chasing after some variations he doesnít yet own.

"The Jordans will always be like the first," he said.

Wang is hardly alone in his collecting pursuits. In fact, shoes have become a rapidly-growing niche among sports-related collectible items, with people paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for certain models.

Although there are now hundreds of personal websites and message boards devoted to the sneaker-collecting hobby, perhaps the largest and most influential retail website is www.instyleshoes.com, started in 1999 by Steve Mulholland.

"I saw the opportunity to sell some interesting shoes online," Mulholland said.

At first, it was just "moderately rare" shoes that were a little over a year old and couldnít be found in stores anymore. But, he said, "That grew into finding shoes worldwide that were very old and very collectible."

Within two years, Mulholland was literally traveling around the world to find models of sneakers at stores in Europe, Asia and Australia that were sold out in the USA.

According to the website, over the past four years, instyleshoes.com has offered more than 2,000 unique styles from 31 countries, all authentic Nike shoes purchased from Nike and itís retailers.

Mulholland said that in February of 2003, the site offered a special sale with every Jordan model ever made in nearly every color variation -- and sold out of 85 percent of that inventory within four days, including $80,000 worth of sales in one day.

There are now 19 different "base" models of Air Jordan shoes (Air Jordan 1-19), with color variations for each model, plus many special-edition models.

Even now, Mulholland said, itís possible to walk into a typical retail store, buy a pair of Air Jordans, keep it stored unused in the original box with its original tags for about a year, then sell it for as much as a 40 percent profit.

"Thereís not a single Jordan (more than a year old) that does not sell for more than retail out there," he said.

Many of the Jordan shoes have been reproduced as a retro line -- for instance the original Air Jordan 1 style was re-issued as a retro style in 1994 and then again five years later -- but Mulholland said small details are always changed and collectors can tell the difference between the originals and the remakes.

"Some people, they only want to buy the original. They donít want to buy the remake," he said.

While the retro styles may provide a cheaper alternative to the original models, counterfeit shoes have become a big problem in the shoe collecting hobby, Mulholland and Wang agreed. Although many legitimate and rare sneakers are offered for sale on eBay by respected dealers, Mulholland estimates that for the most popular and scarce models, as much as 60-90 percent of those sold there are imitations rather than the real deal.

"Itís scary," he said. "Unfortunately, the fakes are getting so good that just by looking at a picture of the shoes, theyíre almost identical."

Thereís no established authentication service for sneakers, he added, and the only way most collectors have to verify the authenticity of their items is to post pictures on Internet message boards and seek the opinion of more experienced collectors.

Mulholland also has created Sole Collector Magazine, a bi-monthly publication available for $29 per year. The magazine includes original articles and features many big, clear pictures of various shoes to help collectors identify whatís out there.

Although the staff is not large enough to devote the time necessary to create a pricing guide for the magazine, Mulholland said, "Thereís absolutely a need for it."

Mulholland said several pairs of the original 1985 Jordans have sold for more than $3,000 each in their original unworn condition on his website. As of July 1, a size 11 original Air Jordan I was available there for $9,000. A size 10.5 Air Jordan I in a slightly different style had a $5,000 price tag, while a size 12 Jordan KO was available for $3,000.

Not everything is quite that pricey, though. Many models were available in the $200-$300 range, with some available for less than $100.

Wang noted that nearly all of the top 10-15 NBA superstars -- players such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James -- endorse their own line of shoes.

"Pretty much every NBA superstar has one," Wang said. "If they have a signature shoe, then the kids will want it."

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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