Most items estimated to sell for thousands of dollars at Sotheby’s don’t begin their journey to a storied auction house in the donation bin for an organization dedicated to helping the homeless and other people in need. And yet that’s the beginning of the story for a pair of gold Nike Air Jordans with a bid of — as of this writing — $10,000. Sotheby’s estimates that when the sale concludes on December 18, the sneakers in question will have sold for between $15,000 and $20,000.
Writing at The New York Times, Victor Mather has more details on the path these sneakers took en route to selling for (at least) a five-figure sum at auction. It began with the Portland Rescue Mission, an Oregon nonprofit that’s been engaged in its work of helping the hungry since 1949. One day in April, a pair of sneakers showed up among the donations the organization had received — but with a few details that suggested something about them was different. They were gold Air Jordans, for one thing, and they had the logo of Spike Lee’s production company prominently featured.
The mission’s staff consulted a Portland-area sneaker shop and verified that the shoes in question were the genuine article. The sneakers, it turns out, were Nike Air Jordan Retro 3s, part of a very limited edition made for Spike Lee to wear to the 2019 Academy Awards. (As you might recall, Lee — along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott — won Best Adapted Screenplay that year for their work on BlacKkKlansman.)
As the Times details, the Portland Rescue Mission then contacted designer Tinker Hatfield, who also verified the authenticity of the gold Air Jordans, and provided the organization with a signed box for them. According to Hatfield, only a handful of pairs of this edition were ever made.
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And now, the sneakers are for sale, with proceeds benefiting the Portland Rescue Mission. “I’m thrilled the shoes ended up here,” Hatfield told the organization, according to Sotheby’s. “It’s a happy ending to a really great project.” As for who donated the sneakers to begin with — well, that remains a mystery.
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