In the early 1990s, Apple built prototypes for a pair of blocky, white sneakers, exclusively for Apple employees. With their sateen tongues and vintage rainbow logo, they're either a normcore dream or the ultimate dad shoe, and they quickly disappeared into obscurity. In 2007, one of these rare items emerged on eBay and sold for $79.
Now another is on the market—the only other, according to Heritage Auctions—but it won't go for a pittance. At Heritage's streetwear-themed sale on Sunday, the shoes are listed at an opening bid of $15,000—and are estimated to fetch at least $30,000.
Why such a large anticipated haul? Because for certain collectors these Apple kicks, which a buyer for the auction house purchased at a garage sale in the San Francisco-Bay Area, are a holy grail—a hot sneaker collectible and a hot Apple nostalgia piece, all in one auction lot.
Apple has long notched huge resale prices for its products, even before its products were considered techie fetish items. By 1999, Apple I, the first desktop computer, was already a collector's item, selling for $50,000 at auction.
Apple I has continued to prove a reliably desirable product at big auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's. Most notably, in 2014, an Apple I computer—thought to be from the first batch of machines assembled by Steve Wozniak—sold for $905,000. It was auctioned at Bonham's Auction House to the Henry Ford Foundation for the organization's museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
More recently iPods, made obsolete by smartphones, have become collector's items, too. Almost immediately after Apple discontinued the product in September of 2014, their value markedly rose. That year, a factory-sealed 5GB first-generation iPod Classic fetched $20,000 on eBay. The 4,900 percent price increase in 13 years is yet another example of how quickly Apple products become collectible. Limited edition iPods are selling for even higher prices—a special U2 iPod with the members' engraved autographs went for $90,000 in 2014.
Though Apple's vintage tech products have clear value, a major auction house taking on these Apple sneakers might represent a new level of collectability for the company's merchandise.
Apple-branded merch has primarily only sold on eBay, where there are a variety of pens, sweatshirts, and caps for sale. These items have a decent markup, but there are not many big-ticket pieces. Many of the items for resale were likely originally bought at the Apple Company Store, a brick-and-mortar outlet in Cupertino, California, which is open to the public and dates back to the company's beginnings. However, these items seem to trade more on '80s and '90s nostalgia than serious collector's value.
The most significant merchandise sale to date was a trade sign, manufactured for use at industry shows in the company's startup years, which sold for $18,000 in 2008. The sign was a one-off, eventually replaced, but saved from the dumpster by an Apple employee who later put it up forthe last year, however, the market for Apple merchandise seems to have leaped. In 2016, a lot of Steve Jobs' personal effects were up for auction, with one of his turtlenecks estimated to sell for up to $3,000. In a separate sale, a well-worn and taped-together pair of Jobs' Birkenstocks went for $2,750.
If Heritage finds the right buyer for these sneakers—someone equal parts tech nerd and kicks enthusiast—it could signify some rare synergy between the nerd and jock market. Give it a decade and maybe an Uber logo-embossed basketball or a Facebook lacrosse stick could go for a similar fortune.