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It's been 6 whole months since the record for the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia was last broken. What the heck is taking so long?!
Last time, we had to wait a little over four months. Of course, before that, it was two-and-a-half years, and before that, seven years. But damnit, this is an instant gratification culture that demands a step into higher altitude.
That step just might be here, but there's a real chance we'll never know the details.
The Dynasty Collection, a name so high-brow it feels like it can only be uttered in hushed tones while wearing white gloves, has officially begun its Sotheby's world tour. For those who haven't yet seen, the collection comprises six individual sneakers, each worn by Michael Jordan in his six NBA title-clinching performances. Jordan is pictured in locker room celebrations wearing one sneaker, having gifted the other - complete with autographs and/or inscriptions commemorating the moment - to the former Bulls Director of Communications Tim Hallam after each victory.
As far as occasions go, it's challenging to do better than the sneakers Jordan wore to accumulate all six rings. Perhaps the only way would be to literally alter the course of time to ensure Jordan clinched some of those titles wearing earlier, more significant models of his signature sneaker line. No major disrespect to the VII, the VIII, or the XIV, but the Jordan I, III, and IV would polish this collection with an even more blinding shine.
The collection began its exhibition in Dubai, next traveling to Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York. The messaging is clear: these are artifacts of global importance, and Sotheby's is after the deepest of pockets, wherever they may reside.
But the collection is to sell privately. And for us to find out the final price tag, both buyer and seller will have to agree to disclose it.
In that case, be prepared to tack on the pesky but necessary "publicly-known" caveat to any talk of sports memorabilia record sales going forward. Like an iceberg, significant mass in the sports memorabilia market lies beneath the surface, out of sight. The private market for sports memorabilia bustles, but its discreet nature means it often fails to push the broader market further into the pantheon of fine art. Of course, it also protects sellers from off nights at auction and offers discretion, both of which maintain the integrity of an item's reputation. Private sales of fine art have been on the rise at major auction houses in recent years: in 2019, they accounted for 7.6% of auction house sales, which nearly doubled to 13.5% in 2021.
The seller is not Tim Hallam, who no longer owns the shoes. Price estimates are being bandied about in the press, from simply surpassing the $10.1 million Last Dance jersey to the dizzying heights of over $100 million.
If Warhol and Monet can do it, surely so too can Jordan, right? Come on, did those guys average 30 points per game for their career? Jordan would give Da Vinci fits from midrange, analytics be damned.
Here's the rub: to reach nine-figures, the sale would have to 10x the current most expensive piece of sports memorabilia, more than 3x the highest known offer for any sports collectible ($30 million is said to have been offered for a PSA 10 1952 Topps Mantle), and more than 55x the highest price ever paid for a pair of sneakers.
The most ever paid for a pair of Jordan's sneakers is $1,472,000 back in October of 2021 for his earliest known regular season Nike Air Ships. This collection, with ties to all six of his NBA titles, is on another level, but is the market far along enough to make that level 68x higher? Perhaps someday, but perhaps not yet. Problematically, perhaps we'll never know.
If a collection of six shoes sells for nine-figures, but the news doesn't clutter your timelines for days on end, did it even happen? That may be the question we're left to face. Whether buyer and seller disclose or not (please take a victory lap!), there's only one way to celebrate: kick off one shoe and light up a stogie. It's Jordan year.
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