What may be the largest sneaker collection in the world belongs to three 20-something women.
Ariana, Dresden and Dakota Peters are the sisters behind a more than 6,000-pair collection that includes thousands of Nike Air Force 1s, Air Jordans and several rare prototypes of sneakers designed for elite athletes and A-list celebrities.
The Peter sisters tell CNBC a passion for kicks is in their blood. The women originally inherited the collection when it was nearly 5,000 pairs of sneakers from their father, Douglas Roy Peters, about eight-and-a-half years ago. Douglas Peters, a 55-year-old retired real estate developer, is an obsessive collector who had been amassing the collection since the early '80s.
"I think we've all taken on a love for sneakers," says Ariana, 26.
Since taking over the collection, the three women have continued to buy and collect even more sneakers and they now estimate it is worth more than $2 million.
The sisters' massive collection outranks fellow sneaker fanatic Jordan Geller, who's private collection was awarded the Guinness World Record title in 2012 for over 2,500 pairs. (Geller has reportedly sold most of his collection off since earning that title.)
In September, CNBC producers visited the Peters in South Florida (for security reasons the sisters asked that CNBC not reveal the city) to get a look at the collection.
Off a wing of the Peters' childhood home is a 5,000-square-foot gym that includes an official-sized basketball court emblazoned with Miami Heat Logos. But during CNBC's visit, the court was covered in sneakers, making the space look more like a gigantic shoe closet. The Peters say the court is not even big enough to hold every pair and thousands of others are off-site in a secret, high-security storage unit.
Douglas Peters initially started collecting sneakers as a hobby, but over two decades it grew into a full-blown obsession, according to the sisters.
"Our dad is definitely a hoarder... but he chooses great things to hoard," Ariana tells CNBC.
The collection had been hidden from the public eye for more than 30 years before Dresden, 23, convinced her sisters to post a few sneaker pics to Instagram in 2015.
The Peters say those initial posts, and the fact that three young women now owned what's likely the largest collection of rare kicks on the planet, attracted the attention of sneaker publications all over the world.
"I think we kept the collection to ourselves for so long that we kind of forgot about the sneaker world that's out there — we were, like, in shock," says Dakota, 20.
On Instagram the sisters are known as "Chicks with Kicks," and they say early on followers would make low ball offers to buy out the entire collection.
"We had a gentleman write us, 'Can I fly down and buy you out?' And he thought that three young girls that acquired this collection, they don't really know what they have."
Now, these Chicks with Kicks have over 145,000 Instagram followers. And what started as a way to share rare finds with an online sneaker community became a business. In late August, the Peters decided to take their Instagram game to the next level by offering select pairs for sale.
It quickly proved lucrative.
"In about two weeks...we've done $188,000 in sales," Ariana said in September. "So that's crazy when you think about it," she says, explaining their simple strategy: "We buy low so we can sell high."
For example, a game-worn pair of Converse high tops custom-made for Julius "Dr. J" Erving turned into one of their greatest investments. The sisters bought the size 15 shoes from a collector in New Jersey in 2016 for $700. Ariana says a few years later, they sold them for $12,000 on Instagram, resulting in a 1,614% profit.
While that's impressive, it's not the best return on investment that the Peters have seen. Take for example a rare pair of Adidas Kanye West Rod Laver sample sneakers, which, according to Sole Collector, the company custom made for then newcomer rapper Kanye West as a gift in 2005.
According to Ariana, she and her sisters spotted pictures of the one-of-a-kind pair when a seller posted them online with a $1,700 price-tag. Ariana says she asked the seller where he got them and he told her he bought them for $17 at a Salvation Army in southern California. She negotiated to buy them for $1,500 and a year after making that purchase, the Chicks With Kicks flipped them for $7,840. If that seller's story about the $17 Salvation Army deal is true, that would mean the shoes' value increased by a mind-blowing 46,017%.
"That was our best sneaker flip" Ariana says.
As for authenticating their sneakers, the sisters tell CNBC that, when it's available, they sometimes provide original tags, and documentation from the design team, but many times clients just take their word for it. They also add that most of their customers do their own due diligence. For comparison, StockX, the top online sneaker resale company, says on its website that the company has a two-stage authentication protocol, "Every item bought and sold on StockX goes through a rigorous authentication process, putting the hammer down on scammers and bootleggers."
The market for vintage and collectible sneakers has exploded since the '80s and '90s when the Peters' dad acquired much of the collection. Cowen Equity Research estimates the value of the worldwide sneaker resale market at about $6 billion. And StockX, which was founded in 2015, recently reached a $1 billion valuation.
That sharp increase in demand is sending the price of some shoes through the roof. It's not unusual to see the price of highly sought after kicks commanding five-figures on reseller sites like flightclub.com, solesupremacy.com and stadiumgoods.com.
However those skyrocketing prices and brands' limited releases have also sparked criticism of a marketplace that's increasingly only accessible by the wealthiest collectors and fueled by speculators who buy new shoes only to flip them on the secondary market for prices that can be two, three and even 10 times the retail price.
"The people that really influence this sneaker s--- are getting phased out...," wrote Angel Diaz on Complex in 2018. "The skaters, the hustler, the street kids that know how to put an outfit together are the true influencers and will always be, not that rich kid on Instagram."
Ariana agrees, saying speculators buying up new sneaker isn't fair, adding the problem is with the limited releases and investors using bots to buy them to flip them. "I never heard of someone who didn't use a bot who could get one," she says. Given that the Chicks with Kicks collection is vintage, "I don't even know how it works or what it looks like, I don't use them," Ariana says.
Ariana admits though, "Sneakers have become crazy beyond my wildest imagination."
Case in point: The most expensive pair the Peters ever sold is a green metallic 1985 Air Jordan 1 for $17,000, says Ariana.
"These are probably my favorite part of our collection," Ariana tells CNBC as she holds a vintage pair of 1985 Air Jordan sneakers with the original tag still attached.
The white sneakers with red metallic accents and bright red soles have never been worn and are kept in the original box. Because of this, the Peters sisters say sneaker collectors are willing to pay a premium: "We value these at about $10,000."
But a pair of Air Force 1s in their collection commands an even bigger price tag. They are white laser-cut Air Force 1 sneakers made by Nike designer Mark Smith for fellow influential sneaker developer, the late Sandy Bodecker.
Dresden estimates on the vintage sneaker market, "they go for about $20,000."
In the last four months of 2019, Chicks with Kicks' Instagram sales brought in $257,406, according to the sisters.
When asked what sneakers their dad sports today, the sisters — who were all wearing heels — laughed as Dakota revealed, "the finest of the finest Zara sneakers," which go for about $50.
"He probably wears the same pair every single day," Ariana says, "and it's nothing special."