Sneakers can be a lucrative investment. As we noted in this week’s issue, the free market is experiencing a sneaker boom. Prices seem to be on a constant rise and the hip teenagers at the front lines of the rush are making crazy paper.
Certain newly released shoes nearly double in price within several hours. And, often, value dramatically appreciates within a few years. At Flight Club NY, the famous sneaker consignment store, at least 31 types of sneakers are fetching four-figure prices (and they are all Nike).
The boom–and the soaring prices accompanying it–hit within the last five years. And thanks to the precise record-keeping of the folks at Flight Club, who maintain a historical price database, we can come close to marking the moment the boom rocked the sneaker world: early 2011.
Air Jordans are easiest for tracking the movement of shoe prices: They are always cool, and so less vulnerable to hype-of-the-moment price spikes; Nike re-releases popular versions that first came out in Michael Jordan’s heyday, which means there’s always a fresh pair of the highly desirable designs; and the hottest ones have been on the market for up to a decade, ensuring a bigger sample size.
In “The Sneaker Boom,” we describe sneaker blog mogul Yu Ming-Wu’s attempts to sell his Air Jordan IV Lightnings in 2009. He worked hard to eventually find a buyer to shell out $300 for the pair. Four years later those shoes go for $1,000. Flight Club’s historical price data shows the same thing: about a year after the sneaker’s 2006 release, its average selling price at Flight Club hovered between $300 and $350. In March 2011, it remained around $380.
And then somebody pressed the turbo button. By June 2012, in a span of 15 months, the sneaker was selling for $800. And by the end of that year, its value had reached $1,250, before settling down at $1,000 over the past six months.
The plight of the Air Jordan IV Lightings is a familiar one, its historical price graph representative of many sneakers.
Air Jordan IV “Mars Blackmons”: In January 2007, it cost $225. The shoes’ value incrementally rose over the next four years, and in February 2011, it reached $290. But, suddenly, over the next year and a half, the price surged, peaking in June 2011 at more than $500. It currently rests at around $400.
Jordan V Grapes: Between January 2007 and February 2011, the price rose from $250 to $380. By August of the following year, they cost $675. They now cost $500.
A pattern is emerging–gradual increase over the years, and then a sharp surge between early 2011 and summer 2012.
Jordan VII Premio: February 2011, $375. August 2012, $1000. Today, $1,250.
Jordan V Raging Bulls: January 2011, $225. September 2012, $450. Today, $450.
Jordan IV Thunder: January 2007, $400. April 2011, $725. November 2012, $1,300.
Jordan VIII Aqua: January 2007, $175. January 2011, $325. June 2012, $575. Today $525.
To be sure, this graph applies to non-Jordans, too. Take the Nike SB “Tiffany,” for instance: January 2006, $350. March 2011, $725. June 2012, $900. Today, $900. Or look at the Air Yeezy, Kanye West’s much-hyped first sneaker: January 2009, $700. February 2011, $950. September 2012, a jaw-dropping $2,750. Today, they go for the slightly less unreasonable price of $2,000.
You’ve probably noticed another pattern in the data: Many of these prices have dipped or plateaued since peaking last summer. Which means that, perhaps, the sneaker boom is a bubble, and we are seeing the bubble beginning to deflate.
A peek at some of the most popular non-Jordans for sale certainly suggests a market sliding down from its peak.
The Foamposite ParaNormans, an extremely rare sneaker famously known as one of the most expensive on the market, sold at Flight Club for $3,500 in September 2012. Now, their average price is around $2,250. Another famously pricey new sneaker, the Foamposite Galaxy, went for more than $2,000 when first released in early 2012, but now sells for around $1,500. The Foamposite Fighter Jet cost $425 on the secondary market after the pair’s February release; a pair now costs $360. The LeBron IX South Beaches peaked at $825 shortly after hitting the market in April 2012; you can now get a pair for $600.
Perhaps it is a temporary ebb in the market. Or perhaps a bear market is on the way.