September 29, 2022
On Monday, September 26, Christie’s announced the launch of its Department X—which will give Air Jordans and Supreme Skateboard Decks their own category, alongside Impressionist & Modern Art and Old Masters. The move is the latest sign that a wave of younger collectors is 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 top competitor Sotheby’s Auction House 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.
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 also have continued to soar in price. In 2020, Christie’s offered a collection of 253 Supreme t-shirts for $2 million.
Donovan says that 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.
Research contact: @CNBC