Wealth

Christie’s launches ‘Department X’ as collectible sneakers and street-wear boom

Nike Unreleased Air Jordan VI Donda West Sneaker
CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2022

Christie’s is launching a new department to capitalize on the booming market for collectible sneakers, streetwear and sports history.

The auction house on Monday announced its Department X, giving Air Jordans and Supreme skate decks their own category, alongside Impressionist & Modern Art and Old Masters. The move is the latest sign that a wave of younger collectors are redefining the collectibles world.

“When looking at the auction world and the way collectors are evolving and the new collectors coming into the marketplace, we felt this is a strong a robust marketplace,” said Caitlin Donovan, Christie’s head of Handbags, Streetwear and Sneakers, who will head Department X. “It’s only going to get stronger and that’s why we felt it was time to dive headfirst into this new market.”

Department X will sell rare collectibles across music, fashion, art and sports history, but sneakers and streetwear will be among its biggest categories. It will hold online auctions, with live previews in New York, and private selling exhibitions throughout the year.

Sneakers and sports collectibles have exploded in popularity and value in recent years. In June, Christie’s held a “Six Rings − Legacy of the GOAT” sale dedicated to basketball legend Michael Jordan’s career, with sales nearing $1.5 million. And Sotheby’s this month sold Jordan’s “Last Dance” jersey − from his 1998 NBA Finals Game 1 − for $10.1 million, setting a new record for sports memorabilia.

A collection of 200 pairs of Louis Vuitton and Nike Air Force 1 sneakers designed by the late designer Virgil Abloh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this year for $25 million. That was more than eight times the estimate, with one pair selling for $350,000.

Sotheby’s launched its streetwear category in December, with most of the buyers between 20 and 40 years old and 80% of bidders new to the auction house.

Kanye West Grammy Worn, Nike Air Yeezy 1 Sneaker Prototype
CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2022

As part of its Department X launch, Christie’s will hold a private-sale exhibit titled “Ye Walks,” celebrating two pairs of Kanye West’s sneaker designs. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototype was the first West designed with Nike. The Nike Donda West Air Jordan VI was created in memory of West’s mother.

Hats, shirts, skate decks and even pinball machines from Supreme have also continued to soar in price. In 2020, Christie’s offered a collection of 253 Supreme t-shirts for $2 million.

Donovan said younger collectors gravitate to the images and culture they grew up with. Street wear, rare sneakers and memorabilia tied to sports icons are likely to grow in value as younger collectors gain wealth.

“We go for what tugs at our own past experiences and heart strings,” she said. “So for these collectors in their 30s and 40s, it’s a celebration of their culture.”

Some collectors say six-figure sneakers and t-shirts are a product of a speculative bubble, but Donovan said the rise of so-called “hype-wear” is likely to endure despite falling stocks and recession fears.

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