Sole searching: The ‘Mona Lisa of sneakers’ on show in Melbourne

Sole searching: The ‘Mona Lisa of sneakers’ on show in Melbourne

The “Mona Lisa of sneakers” went on display in Melbourne on Friday, with Michael Jordan’s old high-tops and around 100 other rare shoes offering a glimpse into a lucrative market driven by die-hard “sneakerheads” and eager investors.

Online auction giant eBay opened the three-day Museum of Authentics in an apparent bid for a bigger slice of the sneaker resales market, which has boomed during the pandemic.

“We’re essentially showcasing and displaying some of the rarest, most iconic sneakers in the world,” eBay sneaker expert Alaister Low told AFP ahead of the opening in the city’s trendy suburb Brunswick.

Alaister Low

The signed Air Jordans, dubbed the “Mona Lisa of sneakers” by Low, were worn by Jordan on-court in 1985 and a similar pair sold at auction in 2020 for $560 000 (R8.9 million) – the most expensive shoes ever put under the hammer at the time.


Alongside the Chicago Bull’s footwear are College Dropout Bapestas – Kanye West’s earliest sneaker collaboration.

West’s touch rivals Jordan’s, with a pair of Nike Air Yeezys worn by the rapper fetching $1.8 million (R28.6 million) last year.

For the owner of the Air Jordans on display, building a collection is about more than money.

“Actually, it’s all about, like the passion. Yeah, I just love sneakers because I never resell them,” Michael Fan, who lent out a small selection of his collection of 700 shoes to the exhibition, said.

Michael Fan


Fan, who said his array of shoes fills a carefully organised basement in his Melbourne home, said approaching the sneakers as a purely financial investment was a gamble.

“If you put the investment, like as a first priority, there will be like high risk.”

Michael Fan

The market for rare shoes was “going up crazily”, he added, with values of some in his collection jumping more than 100 times their original cost in the past decade.

This photo taken in Melbourne on 28 April 2022 shows collector Michael Fan looking at his pair of signed Air Jordan 6 ‘Carmine’ worn by Michael Jordan on-court, which will go on display during the three-day Museum of Authentic by online auction giant eBay. Image: William West / AFP


Low agrees, adding that COVID-19 lockdowns kicked the trend into overdrive.

“Sneakers have just exploded in terms of growth, like on eBay, we’ve seen triple-digit growth within sneakers over the last three years,” he said.

Alaister Low

Similar to several other online resellers, including Detroit-based StockX which was valued at more than $3.5 billion (R55.6 billion) last year, eBay is touting its ability to make sure shoes that are traded on its platform are the real deal.

The online-shopping stalwart says its “Authenticity Guarantee” service has experts pour over every detail, including “logo placement, stitching, leather quality and even smell”, before granting an authentication certificate.

© Agence France-Presse

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