Getting In The Sneaker-Collecting Game

Besides looking good on your feet, an extensive sneaker collection can also look good for your wallet.

Photo credit: Joseph Pisani/

“I didn’t know there was such a big value in sneakers,” said Yu-Ming Wu, a longtime Nike collector and founder of “I started to buy stuff that I really liked. A year later I realized that one of the Airs [Air Jordans] I had bought was worth $300. I paid I think $175 for it.”

Wu said he spent $80,000 on Nike sneakers in 2003. His collection is worth $250,000 today.

Buying the right shoe and watching it grow in value is a common story among extreme sneaker fans, or sneakerheads as they’re called. But getting a foot into the sneaker-collecting world means more than owning just any pair of up-market shoes.

At the most recent Sneaker Con, a quarterly sneaker convention in New York City, collectors singled out a couple key criteria.

For one, —they're one of the most sought after sneakers, and they sell out quickly.

“We have designed our own business, and niched out our own business with the consumer," said Michael Jordan, about the popularity of Air Jordan, in a 2008 interview with CNBC. "They have total faith in what we design, that it’s going to be one hip, two, done with the highest quality and three represents the best in basketball."

Those in the game said that they buy investment-worthy sneakers when they're first released, through retail stores that specialize in limited releases.

One vendor at Sneaker Con already had a pair of Air Jordan XI Cool Gray that wouldn’t be released until December. They were being sold for $300.

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Michael Jordan’s appeal goes beyond basketball. A pair of sneakers made for Jordan’s motorcycle racing team was selling for $3,000 at Sneaker Con. “They’re just one of 13,” said collector David Bermudez. (Another tip: sneakers released in a limited amount increases value, too.)

Besides Michael Jordan, collectors are also on the hunt for other shoes with famous names attached. Lebron James sneakers, also by Nike , are growing in value and popularity among collectors.

Outside of Nike, Adidas sneakers designed by eccentric fashion designer Jeremy Scott are favorites of fans, said collector Caprice Morgan, who was selling a pair of yellow and black Adidas sneakers designed by Scott for $250.

Those by special, guest designers are also valued. A brand new pair of a Nike sneaker designed by rapper Kanye West released last year is currently worth about $1,100, said collector Will Debord of (Check out more collectible kicks in our slideshow.)

“At the end of the day, the consumer decides what is cool and coveted," Nike said in a statement to CNBC.

As for Wu, his collection continues to grow.

“I have 840 to 850 pairs and [its] growing everyday,” he said. “I’m at a point where I’m running out of room.”