If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of athletics history, your chance comes September 6, but you’ll need to have plenty of cash in your wallet.
On this date, the international luxury goods auctioneers Sotheby’s launched a call for tenders for Invictus Part II, the second half of a collection of sports artifacts. Among the 16 items is a baseball signed by greats Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, the hockey stick that nine-time National Hockey League MVP Wayne Gretzky used in his last career game and the kufi of boxing legend Muhammed Ali.
But the item with the highest earning potential according to Sotheby’s estimates does not come from soccer, basketball or baseball, the most popular sports in the United States. Instead, Steve Prefontaine’s dusty and battered Nike Oregon Waffle running shoes take the cake – they could sell for up to around $250,000.
While the fact that running legend Prefontaine actually wore the shoes is part of their value, Sotheby’s believes the shoes represent something bigger. According to the product description on the auction page, “These Oregon Waffles are the first pair of Pre’s shoes to already to be sold publicly, which is especially remarkable considering the lasting impact it has had on one of the world’s most iconic sneaker companies: Nike.
Originally founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by University of Oregon track and cross-country coach Bill Bowerman and businessman Phil Knight, Nike is now a Fortune 500 company and the largest footwear company in the world. Several other items in the Invictus Part II auction are Nike shoes, including one worn by basketball star LeBron James, another worn by dominating tennis player Rafael Nadal, and a designer pair signed by Serena Williams.
But these are estimated to sell for only a fraction of the price of Pre’s green and yellow pair, which were made around 1975. Pre became the face of the brand and, because he used free clothes and shoes from Nike, was punished by the Amateur. Athletic Union, which required athletes to retain their amateur status and deny endorsements to compete in high-level competitions like the Olympics. His fight for athletes’ right to earn money of their accomplishments to support their efforts helped pave the way for young athletes like LeBron James, who signed a billion dollar lifetime contract with Nike at just 18 years old.
Pre’s shoes feature the waffle outsole, one of Nike’s first major innovations, invented by Bowerman using his wife’s waffle iron. The rubber waffle pattern provided more traction for the wearer, allowing them to run on different surfaces safely. Additionally, the shoes feature a nylon upper and the original laces and soles. The tongue features the original Nike logo.
The auction ends September 15 at 2:36 p.m. EST, so if you have the dough and are looking to buy, be sure to place your bid.