Christie’s launches ‘Department X’ as collectible sneakers fuel the street-wear boom

Nike Unreleased Air Jordan VI Donda Vest Sneaker

Christie’s Images Limited 2022

Christie’s is launching a new division to capitalize on the rapidly growing market for collectible sneakers, streetwear and sports history.

The auction house announced its Department X on Monday, giving its category to Air Jordan and Supreme Skate decks, along with Impressionist and Modern Art and Old Masters. The move is the latest sign that a wave of young collectors is redefining the collectibles world.

“While the auction world and the way collectors are evolving and new collectors are coming to market, we realized this is a strong market,” said Caitlin Donovan, Christie’s head of handbags, streetwear and sneakers, which will be the head of the department. X. “It’s only going to get stronger and so we felt it was time to dive into this new market first.”

Department X will sell rare collectibles in music, fashion, art and sports history, but sneakers and streetwear will be among its biggest categories. It will hold online auctions in New York with live previews and private sale exhibitions throughout the year.

Sneakers and sports collectibles have increased in popularity and value in recent years. In June, Christie’s held a “Six Rings – Legacy of the Goat” sale dedicated to the career of basketball legend Michael Jordan, with sales totaling about $1.5 million. And Sotheby’s 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 earlier this year at Sotheby’s for $25 million. This was more than eight times the estimate, with a pair selling for $350,000.

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Sotheby’s launched its streetwear category in December, with most buyers between the ages of 20 and 40 and 80% of bidders new to the auction house.

Kanye West Grammy Warne, Nike Air Yeezy 1 Sneaker Prototype

Christie’s Images Limited 2022

As part of its Department X launch, Christie’s will hold a private sale exhibit called “Ye Walk” celebrating two pairs of Kanye West’s sneaker designs. The Nike Air Yeezy 1 prototype was the first vest designed with Nike. The Nike Donda West Air Jordan VI was created in memory of West’s mother.

Supreme’s hats, shirts, skate decks, and even pinball machines have been steadily increasing in price. In 2020, Christie’s offered a collection of 253 Supreme T-shirts for $2 million.

Donovan said young collectors are drawn to the images and culture they grew up with. Street wear, rare sneakers and memorabilia associated with sports icons are likely to rise in value as young collectors collect money.

“We go for our past experiences and tugs at the strings of the heart,” she said. “So for these collectors in their 30s and 40s, it’s a celebration of their culture.”

Some collectors say the 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 stock falling and bearish fears.