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About every month or so, someone in the mainstream media will “discover” that sneakerheads exist. They often seek me out to ask what drives this phenomenon and what their value is. This blog will attempt to answer those questions.

A formal definition of a sneakerhead is a person who collects trades and/or admires sneakers as a form of hobby. Sneakerheads, like most collectors, are passionate and dedicated to their subject.  Many are very knowledgeable about the origins and history of sneakers.  Many spend a great deal of time and money studying the category and its past, while building their collections.
I have a deep respect for the passion, commitment and knowledge that sneakerheads possess.

Sneakerheads have been around since brands began to associate athletes with particular styles of shoes.  In the 70’s, the best NYC street ballers had the coolest and rarest shoes, supplied by the brands. When Nike reintroduced the Air Force 1 at the behest of East Coast urban retailers, the fervor ratcheted up a notch. Serious collecting started with the first Jordan shoe, banned by the NBA. Other brands got into the act signing players and creating special shoes just for them. Then when Nike began re-issuing “retro” Jordan’s, new and old collectors sought to start or fill in collections.  And then sneaker collecting was off to the races.

With the advent of the internet, we reached a whole other dimension in the world of sneakerheads. Isolated collectors could now connect with each other. Rumors about releases and special products bounced all over the web.  Opinions about favorite shoes could be shouted (and shouted down) across time zones and continents.  All of this helped heat up the sneakerhead world even further.
And then came ways to buy and sell your favorite sneakers through websites like EBay. This changed the game dramatically.  Soon rare styles were selling for multiples of their original retail value.  Prices escalated which brought on opportunists.
Finally brands began to do collaborations with artists, musicians and celebrities, creating specially designed, extremely limited editions styles. The brands intended for these limited shoes to give them further hype and credibility on the sneakerhead community. Because collaborations were very limited in quantity, they became highly desirable. Collaborations created yet another market for collectors.

Very quickly the sneakerhead world went from collecting for fun to profiteering. As resale prices escalated on limited edition shoes, a new type of “sneakerhead” came into being: the speculator.  Looking merely to make a quick buck (or hundreds of quick bucks), many more buyers got into the game with the sole intent of flipping limited edition shoes, sometimes on the same day they bought them.
Sneakerheads have always sold and traded their shoes, but never to this degree and intensity. The introduction of a large number of resellers has raised the resale prices of shoes and kept traditional collectors from acquiring the shoes they coveted.

This information has always been a little tough to pin down. The data from SportsOneSource can be very helpful in telling us what shoe sold but not who bought it and why.  So we’ll have to triangulate.
Josh Luber ( has done some great work in estimating the resale market.  He figures that re-sales on eBay last year were about $200 million.  If we assume that these shoes sold (on average) for twice retail, that sets the retail value at $100 million.

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