Kanye West’s star power is undeniable.
The multi-hyphenate’s Yeezy sneakers have emerged as some of the hottest kicks out there, with resale site StockX naming the Adidas Yeezy 350 its second most popular shoe of 2020. When the long-awaited Adidas Yeezy 450 Cloud White arrived last month, it sold out in less than a minute. Even beyond the realm of footwear, a partnership with Gap has garnered immense interest, with one analysis estimating the pairing could be worth as much as $970 million.
Later this month, Sotheby’s will attempt to harness a little bit of this star power when it begins taking bids for a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototype sneakers that West wore to the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008. The shoes—in its estimation—are worth more than $1 million.
The prototype pair represented the public’s first look at Nike’s top-secret collaboration with West. The entirely new Air Yeezy silhouette marked a departure from the athlete-driven collaborations of the past and, Sotheby’s said, “paved the way for many of the artist collaborations of today.”
“This pair is critical to the development of the Yeezy franchise, which has become one of the most important sneaker and lifestyle brands in history,” Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectables, said in a statement. “Debuted on-stage at the Grammys in 2008, the sneakers set off waves in the sneaker community as people tried to identify the mysterious pair. Afterwards, we saw a series of collaborations between Kanye and Nike, and then later the birth of his line with Adidas.”
West’s Yeezy brand would stick with Nike for another five years before the rapper turned to Adidas. Their first silhouette together, the Boost 750, arrived in 2015.
Sotheby’s will be offering the historic sneakers on behalf of Ryan Chang, an ultra-rare sneaker collector. They will be on public exhibition from Friday to April 21 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The shoes will be available for direct purchase via a “private sale” where interested parties can submit offers directly to Sotheby’s for consideration.
“As a collector, I’ve always considered sneakers to be design objects—a physical confluence of artistry, history, and in this case, music,” Chang said in a statement. “The Air Yeezy Prototype is particularly special to me because it captured the cultural moment in 2008 so perfectly. There he was, Kanye West, on stage at the Grammys, winning four awards just that evening, and unveiling an incredibly important and iconic design in Nike’s storied history.”
The luxury goods brokerage dubbed the “Kanye West ‘Grammy Worn’ Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes” the most valuable sneakers ever to appear at Sotheby’s and “among the most valuable sneakers to ever be offered on the market.”
The firm claimed to have set a new world auction record for sneakers nearly a year ago when it sold a pair of original 1985 Air Jordan 1 sneakers worn and signed by Michael Jordan himself. Originally valued at $100,000 to $150,000, the shoes would end up selling for $560,000. Should the 2008 Nike Air Yeezy 1s improve on its estimated value price to the same degree, it could demolish the current record for the most expensive sneaker.
That sort of performance, however, is not guaranteed. When Christie’s, another auction house, broke Sotheby’s record last August, it achieved a price, $615,000, below the estimates it initially offered for how much the shoes would fetch, between $650,000 and $850,000. The sneakers were a pair of red, black and white Air Jordan 1’s said to be worn by the Chicago Bulls icon during an exhibition game in Italy in 1985, when he broke the back board during a slam dunk. The left shoe reportedly still had a piece of glass stuck in the sole.
One eBay user recently tried to sell a pair of “pristine” Air Jordan 1 sneakers for $1 million. The seller pinstripe_auctions claimed the kicks were worn and signed by Jordan. The individual described them as one of two publicly verified pairs in deadstock conditions with a rookie signature. The listing was eventually removed from the marketplace in mid-March.