The very first Nike “Air Yeezy” ever shown to the world is going up for auction. Sotheby’s is handling the sale for the prototype sneaker Kanye West wore during his performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
The early Air Yeezy, which was the first to be shown in public, has been valued at more than $1 million — making it one of the most valuable sneakers to be sold by Sotheby’s. It’s owned by Ryan Chang, a Hong-Kong-based sneaker collector, and will be offered exclusively through a private sale.
For those not ready to shell out a fortune for a piece of sneaker history, the Air Yeezy prototype will also also be part of a public exhibition from April 16 to April 21 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
A piece of sneaker history — Prior to the sneaker’s unveiling at the Grammys, rumors had circulated about a West and Nike partnership. Signature sneakers for non-athletes were unheard of at the time, and when the Air Yeezy did go up for sale it would become one of the most coveted sneakers of all time. While the Yeezy umbrella has since moved to Adidas, no subsequent sneakers are as acclaimed as the Air Yeezy 1 or Air Yeezy 2.
“This pair is critical to the development of the Yeezy franchise, which has become one of the most important sneakers and lifestyle brands in history,” said, Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles for Sotheby’s. “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.”
One of a kind — The size 12 sneaker was made in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen specifically for West’s appearance at the Grammys. Because Nike wanted to keep the collaboration under wraps, it ordered West to return the shoes immediately after the award show.
Sotheby’s has authenticated the pair up for sale through photo matching, and when you look closely you’ll see details that didn’t make it to the sneakers that later went up for sale. Stripes appear across the tongue, and there are none of the same textures on the upper. Its color scheme was also toned down from the retail version, with a black upper interrupted only by a red lace holder.
The Sotheby’s auction is at least the third time this exact pair has gone up for sale, as it was auctioned in 2009 as part of a fundraiser for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. It later went on sale again in 2015 for $75,000 — just a fraction of what it might go for today.
Sotheby’s is now taking private offers for the Air Yeezy prototype, and it’ll be sold along with a custom wood box with laser engraving. Should it fetch more than $560,000, it’ll pass a pair of game-worn and autographed Air Jordan 1s to become the most expensive sneaker ever sold.