Record Shattering Jordan Sneakers: An Interview with Gerard Starkey
This Wednesday, February 17th, Otis will hold an IPO on Michael Jordan’s game-worn "Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1’s. The financials:
• Market Cap: $700,000
• Price per Share: $10.00
• Total Shares: 70,000
Shortly after being named Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan headed to the Italian city of Trieste to compete in an exhibition series promoted by Nike. Donning the jersey of Stefanei Trieste, the local Italian Professional Basketball club, Jordan put on a clinic, scoring 30 points against Juve Casetera. The exhibition was highlighted by an iconic moment: Late in the game, the young MJ delivered a ferocious dunk, shattering the backboard and spraying glass across the hardwood court. Michael Jordan managed to avoid the glass shower but stepped his left size 13.5 AJ1 Chicago onto a shard of glass. The sole of his shoe, now transformed into a proverbial canvas, captured this key moment in history.
To prepare for this record-breaking offering, Altan Insights set-up an exclusive interview with Gerard Starkey, a London-based Michael Jordan memorabilia expert. Gerard is a renowned MJ pundit and has been featured in numerous publications, including the BBC and Highsnobiety. In addition to serving as an advisor for investors of Jordan relics, he is also an ardent follower of the alternative asset space and provides us with valuable viewpoints on various topics ranging from the growth of the Jordan brand to the importance of understanding rarity across all markets. (Disclaimer: Gerard is also an investor in the AJ1 Shattered Backboard sneakers).
Gerard, can you give us some insight into your personal collection?
My collection is all Michael Jordan PEs (Player Exclusives/Player Editions), including deadstock/unworn pairs made specially for Jordan and also fully photo matched items from some of his key moments. When I started collecting MJ PEs with a real focus and purpose about 15 years ago, I bought anything and everything I could. Before that, collecting was all about the OGs for nostalgia purposes, including some samples that I was able to get my hands on and the retros I liked to wear.
I still buy and wear retros I like, but the market has changed a lot over the years with new entrants including actual Jordan fans and a plethora of resellers. This massive influx has made buying simple retros a challenge.
I am very lucky to have been in this space for some time now, meaning I have a few good people that look out for me.
When analyzing and evaluating a piece of Jordan memorabilia or sneaker, what are some important factors and attributes you look for?
I have a list of parameters I look into, ranging from coding, style of tag, wear, lacing, provenance, backstory, and photo matching. The sum of the parts is where the real value lies. There are always new things to notice when researching these pieces, and I am always learning with my peers when discussing these mega pairs. The process of analyzing and unearthing MJ’s holy grails is the most exciting part of the hobby for me.
As a collector and expert of all things MJ, what about the Shattered Backboard AJ1s stands out to you the most?
Not only is the pair of AJ1s fully photo-matched to the actual shattered backboard moment in August 1985, but there are rare photos from 1985 not available to the wider public that exhaustively cover the entire backstory. For example, photos of Jordan unlacing and removing his own shoes and handing them over to the Stefanel captain, Gianni Bertolotti.
Additionally, the shoes are an AJ1 high, which is not the AJ1 variant MJ usually wore. Throughout his career, he laced up a pair of his typical TYPS MJ adjusted AJ1 Player Edition. This results in the pair being even rarer and hence, more valuable as he only wore the high cut Chicago AJ1 a handful of times.
There is genuinely no other pair like them anywhere in the world and the Shattered Backboard AJ1 is truly classified as a 1-of-1 based on the sheer volume of parameters that this piece of history possesses.
Out of all the great Jordan moments, from The Flu Game to The Shot, what makes the moment connected to this sneaker so special?
These are the defining moments of MJ's career that have resonated through time, and will continue to be celebrated and impactful on generations to come.
To have a pair of shoes or a jersey from an exact moment in time, especially a key moment when MJ moved the whole world – is absolutely priceless. It represents a point where the pair of shoes transforms into a piece of art, and a genuine reference in the history books.
This AJ1 embodies the definition of rarity, a true 1-of-1. The word rare is used often these days, but I use it sparingly and consistently across all disciplines in the collectibles space.
The bigger the moment, the more significant the impact and meaning of the piece of memorabilia. There are also particular years or Jordan silhouettes that resonate more so with people, this being one of them.
The moment essentially gives the shoe or jersey its very own “heartbeat”, which then translates into extreme rarity and value.
With Jordan, it's more than just sneakers. We've seen his jerseys and cards also sell for thousands to hundreds of thousands at auctions. Even compared to the best of the best in basketball or other sports, Jordan stands out. What about MJ and the overall Jordan brand makes him such a valued commodity?
Michael Jordan is simply the Greatest of All Time or the “G.O.A.T.” Not only did he change the whole NBA and the beautiful game of basketball, but he influenced sports marketing, endorsement deals, style, progression and provides a great example of what we can accomplish with a lot of hard work.
How have you seen this sector develop, both the sneaker scene and the overall collectible market, since you first got involved?
With sports memorabilia in general, I have watched the entire market shift significantly over the past 5-10 years. Both in terms of value and in the need for education, especially with regard to what actual rarity is. Rarity is and always should be the ultimate factor when valuing these items.
The sports card space, for example, is significantly more developed than the game worn memorabilia space in terms of education. This is due to the assessment parameters being more straightforward. The education curve is a major factor that contributes to the record pricing being set on a daily/weekly basis, because people understand the value of these items. There is a much simpler assessment on sports cards and hence more understanding of value, which has created market demand. This marks a key reason for the recent records we’ve seen being set for MJ’s Fleer 1986 Rookie Card (and his other cards).
The demand is exponentially higher for cards graded Gem Mint 10, although I would note that these MJ fleer cards are not even that rare comparatively. Even with a population of over 300 grade 10 MJ Fleer RCs, they are still hitting a sale price of $500,000 plus on a regular basis.
When you look at really rare cards, like the higher graded Trout, Wagner or Mantle cards, which hit prices of around $1-5 million, you can start to understand what the value differentials are between “not so rare” cards and extremely rare cards.
This same phenomenon is happening in the game-worn memorabilia space, but at a much slower rate, for the reasons I mentioned above.
Unfortunately, the whole space has had a few dark moments given some of the fraud, but I like to think that as we roll out more education and transparency over the coming years, the whole space will develop even further.
The education on how to value these art pieces, which are nostalgic, emotional, and represent a new class of alternative assets, will come with an understanding of rarity and ultimately value.
Firms like Otis are revolutionizing the investing side of the sneaker world by taking a collectible most people can’t afford and turning it into a fractional asset. How do you foresee the fractional investing sector impacting the overall sneaker market?
I am a MJ collector through and through, so I prefer to own items outright myself, but I do like the communal ownership concept as it gives access to these incredible assets to a wider range of people. I also believe that firms like Otis, with the help of specialists, have and will continue to educate the whole community to help add value to these assets, where merited.
This has already happened in the past 24 months with records being set on a regular basis, but I believe there is a lot more to come, especially in the more complex world of game-worn gear.
It’s worth noting that a large portion of the absolute grail items are in the hands of individual owners, but there are some incredible items owned by Otis and similar firms. The education that has been shared with the community has been the main driver in terms of market demand and pricing.
I foresee the concept of actual rarity becoming clearer and thus being the main differentiating factor between the good items and the absolutely amazing items.
This sneaker will be offered by Otis to investors with a $700,000 market cap, making it the most expensive sneaker ever sold in a public marketplace. Is the Jordan space becoming overpriced in your opinion, or is this just an example of his true value being realized?
The prices in the Jordan game-worn space have clearly increased. As with cards, which is a much more liquid and understood space, there is a clear difference between the good and less rare items, and the ultra rare and 1-of-1 pieces.
There is no question that the $700,000 Market Cap of the Shattered Backboard AJ1 is up there, but let’s put it into context. This exact pair of High Chicago AJ1s is the pair that a rookie MJ wore on the momentous day in August 1985 when he shattered the Trieste backboard. It is dual signed, and there is a step-by-step photo walkthrough of MJ unlacing and handing the pair over himself. Nothing like this exists anywhere else!
Building off of the previous question, how do you project this asset will appreciate?
As people start to become more educated on these historic items and understand all the science and parameters used to authenticate and forensically prove they are the actual pair from that specific moment in time, the concept of actual rarity will become clearer and the asset value, in my opinion, will only go up.
If a card that an amazing athlete signed can sell for $3-5 million, a pair of shoes that an amazing athlete actually wore and created history in has no upper bound. Most of MJ's cards are not 1-of-1s, but there is only one AJ1 from the shattered backboard moment.
Is there a sneaker or other piece of MJ memorabilia you feel might be underappreciated or undervalued today?
Recently, most of the MJ items I have witnessed sell privately and publicly have landed about where I expected them to, based on the parameters I consider when determining rarity. I will note that there has not been anything on the market of the same caliber as the Shattered Backboard AJ1. A few items have come close, but the Shattered AJ1 has it all. It’s very difficult to put defined pricing thresholds around certain items, as these will move with the market and the availability of that particular class of asset.
To close, you’ve highlighted the importance of rarity in the marketplace. How will the increased emphasis on thorough analysis and education help these extremely rare, in some cases 1-of-1 items, reach their true worth?
As the market develops, rarity and historical significance will ultimately drive the price of these sports memorabilia items. This will be the case whether we are looking at cards, shoes, uniforms, and any other sports gear. As mentioned, there is critical analysis that must take place to determine if an asset is truly a 1-of-1. In a case where this can be demonstrated on a number of levels, and if the item is from a significant moment and athlete, the price of that item could be virtually uncapped.
Michael Jordan’s game worn ‘Shattered Backboard” AJ1’s will IPO on Otis on Wednesday, 2/17 at 12 PM EST.