Sneakers are collectors items, so it’s not unusual to see rare ones fetch huge prices. Limited edition Yeezys regularly go for five figures, and shoes with historical value, like those worn by Michael Jordan during iconic games, sometimes auction for over a million. But a recent buy is likely to go down as one of the more unusual sales in the annals of sneaker history: Someone paid $130,000 for a pair of virtual Nike sneakers.
The sneaker in question is an NFT, of course. It’s part of the Nike Dunk Genesis Cryptokicks collection of 20,000 NFTs launched by Nike and RTFKT (“artifact”), a virtual sneaker designer Nike bought last December.
The particular NFT is rare, coming with a colorway designed by famous artist Takashi Murakami. Of the 20,000 virtual sneakers in the set, there are only 98 with the design pictured above, making it a scarce collectors item. (If you’re into that kind of thing.) Since launching last Friday, punters have been buying the generic sneakers in the collection for between $5,000 and $9,000 (1.75 to 3 ether).
Whether you believe in the metaverse or not, many companies are betting it’s the future. Nike is one of them. In addition to buying RTFKT in December, it created Nikeland in Roblox, an online “metaverse” frequented by millions of people every day.
It’s not the only clothing brand with eyes on Web3: In December, Adidas released its Into The Metaverse collection of 30,000 NFTs, partnering with the Bored Ape Yacht Club to do so. Ownership of the NFT promises drops of both virtual and real-life clothing, a tactic also taken by Dolce & Gabbana. Gucci went a different route, teaming with blue-chip NFT collections to put Gucci clothing on Pudgy Penguins, World of Women and Bored Ape Yacht Club avatars.
As for RTFKT, it’s behind Clone X, one of the most successful NFT collections. Designed by Takashi Murakami, it’s a set of 20,000 3D anime-inspired profile picture art whose owners include Justin Bieber. It costs just over $50,000 to buy into Clone X now, but membership comes with perks. In February, holders were dropped a mysterious box that, after weeks of speculation, ultimately contained a pair of Nike Dunk Genesis Cryptokicks and an assortment of vials that can be equipped to the sneaker to change its colorway.
Yep, the shoes being sold for thousands of dollars were airdropped for free to Clone X holders.
There are eight different vials, some of which are more common than others — thus the huge sum spent on the Murikami sneakers above. The vials themselves can be sold, and these too are going for enourmous amounts. One alien vial, the only type rarer than the Murikami vial, sold for $449,000 (150 ether). RTFKT says holders can perform certain online quests that will “evolve” the sneaker’s skins.
As yet there are no announced plans for holders of these NFTs to receive real-life versions of their digital goods, though a Snapchat filter was created so owners could wear their kicks in AR. Thus far just over a third of Clone X owners have opened their mystery boxes, meaning two-thirds of the Cryptokicks have yet to even enter circulation.