Vintage Nike 'moon shoes' sell for record-smashing $437,500 at auction

The rarest and most important pair of Nike sneakers in the world has accomplished an incredibly rare feat: they’re now the most expensive sneakers ever sold at auction.

Nike’s vintage “moon shoes” were put up for auction by Sotheby’s, which has decided to expand its auction offerings and get into the sneaker game. The bidding for the shoes started at $80,000, with the pair expected to sell for $160,000.

That sale price estimate was more than a little off. When the auction closed on Tuesday, the shoes sold for an astonishing $437,500. That’s now the highest auction price ever paid for a pair of sneakers, shattering the previous record of $190,373 paid in 2017 for a pair of signed Converse worn by Michael Jordan in the 1984 Olympic basketball final.

A price of $160,000 for old looking sneakers is ridiculous, so why were these shoes worth $437,500 to the buyer? They’re not just special, they’re also vintage, unique, and impossible to find any other way. According to the Sacramento Bee, they were originally designed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in 1972, and made by hand especially for the 1972 Olympics.

Only 12 pairs were ever made, and they’re called “moon shoes” due to the imprint the sole leaves behind. Bowerman used his wife’s waffle iron to experiment with the tread design on the sole. That tread design was revolutionary at the time because the sole was soft — runners would typically use shoes with hard spikes. The shoe launched Nike into orbit as a company, which means those “moon shoes” are a very important part of history.

Nike's "moon shoes" were estimated to sell for $160,000 at auction, but ended up selling for $437,500. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

The pair that was sold is believed to be the only unworn pair in existence, and were owned by a man named Dave Russell, who got the shoes for free after he ran the marathon at the Olympic trials in 1972.

Shoe collector Miles Nadal was the man who forked over $437,500 to own a piece of athletic history. According to a statement from Sotheby’s, Nadal spent $850,000 to buy the 99 other pairs of sneakers Sotheby’s had put up for sale as part of its “Ultimate Sneaker Collection” auction. Shoes from that collection included the Air Jordan 11’s commemorating Derek Jeter’s career, and the once-fictional Nike MAG sneakers with self-lacing technology, known from “Back to the Future Part II.” With the purchase of the “moon shoes,” Nadal now owns the entire collection.

Nadal, who is the founder of a private investment firm and an accomplished car collector, told Sotheby’s that he plans to display the “moon shoes” at his private museum in Toronto, the Dare to Dream Automobile Museum. The museum is named after his philanthropic initiative.

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