The Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototypes, which the American rapper debuted at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008, will be among the most expensive sneakers ever to appear on the market, according to Sotheby’s auction house, which is organizing the sale.
Described in a press release as “one of the most prized and sought-after sneakers in existence,” the shoes will be offered via private sale after going on display in Hong Kong later this month. Sotheby’s did not reveal an exact asking price, though it said it has valued the item “in excess of $1 million.”
While there is no known record for private sneaker sales, a seven-figure price tag would far exceed the current auction record of $615,000, set at Christie’s in May 2020 by a pair of autographed Nike Air Jordan 1s worn by Michael Jordan in 1985.
Put on the market by sneaker collector Ryan Cheng, the prototype Yeezys come in a size 12, West’s shoe size. According to Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectables, the valuation derives from the brand’s cultural impact.
“This pair is critical to the development of the Yeezy franchise, which has become one of the most important sneaker and lifestyle brands in history,” he said over email.
Rumors of West’s prospective shoe line had been circulating for almost a year prior to his 2008 Grammy performance. When the rapper stepped on stage wearing the soft black leather high-tops, their muted Nike swoosh logos and unique straps which would become a signature Yeezy flourish generated significant buzz among fans and sneaker aficionados.
At the time, West had just released his third studio album, “Graduation,” which sold almost 1 million copies. During an emotional Grammys performance, he sang “Hey Mama” to honor his mother, Donda West, who had died just three months prior.
Created in 2007 at Nike’s “Innovation Kitchen” in Oregon, the prototypes were an early version of the Nike Air Yeezy colorways, which would go on sale in 2009. The colorways originally retailed at $215 a pair, although eBay resales can today reach $8,000.
The design debuted by Kanye at the Grammys was never released on the market. But in 2017, a pair did appear for sale on collectible sneaker retailer Flight Club, where they sold for $100,000.
The prototype sneakers are a relic of a creative partnership that no longer exists, with Yeezy transferring its operational empire from Nike to Adidas in 2013. When the latter extended its partnership with Yeezy in 2013, the German sportswear brand called it “the most significant partnership ever created between an athletic brand and a non-athlete.”