A pair of ultra-rare Nike shoes sold in South Africa for R56,000 – and the seller says it was a bargain

Business Insider SA
Bernie Wicomb.
Bernie Wicomb.
  • Bernie Wicomb, who runs the Sole Knowledge YouTube account, got his hands on a pair of ultra-rare Nike Air Max One Parra Amsterdam sneakers.
  • He sold them on to a collector for R56,000.
  • Making them one of the highest prices paid locally for a pair of sneakers in a private sale. 
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A local sneakerhead claims to have sold one the most expensive pairs of sneakers ever in South Africa.

Bernie Wicomb, who runs the Sole Knowledge YouTube account, got his hands on a pair of ultra-rare Nike Air Max One Parra Amsterdam sneakers that he sold on to a collector for R56,000.

Sneakers are a trillion rand global industry, and hefty prices for rare shoes are not unusual. Driving much of the hype - and increasing the prices - are so-called sneakerheads, who snap up limited edition sneakers for their own collections, and occasionally sell them on at a significant profit.

Bernie Wicomb.
Bernie Wicomb.

The South African footwear industry is worth billions, but sneaker culture here is still relatively niche, especially compared to global markets. Although there’s a thriving community of collectors, the resale market in the country is smaller. Even so, it’s not unheard of for sneakers to fetch prices of up to R30,000.

The Air Max One Parra Amsterdam that Wicomb sold is still one of Nike’s most sought-after sneakers. It was designed by Dutch artist Piet Para, and pays homage to Amsterdam. It features an unusual colour combination of red, burgundy and blue on the classic Air Max silhouette.

The original sneakers sold out almost immediately, but they continue to fetch exorbitant prices on resale websites like StockX. The latest available pair sold on StockX in the United States for more than R80,000. 

The pair that Wicomb sold, however, was particularly unique. An ex-colleague of his at Nike had received an extremely limited pair of the “Friends and Family” edition of the shoe. “Friends and Family” editions have minor variations on the mass-market sneaker, and are intended as gifts for influential people or those who worked on the project.

Wicomb speculates that Nike produced fewer than 24 pairs of these. 

“Aesthetically, the standard version differs from the Friends and Family version,” he said. “In the case of this shoe in particular, the Friends and Family version contained Parra's scripted signature stitched onto the forefoot mudguard.”

Initially, Wicomb didn’t intend to sell the sneaker. But after posting an image of it on Instagram, several local collectors showed an interest.

Sneakers like these seldom appear or sell outside of the United States, Europe or Japan, and they were pleased by the local response.

“We were encouraged that the South African sneakerheads were able to identify the significance of what was being posted,” he said. “So we thought it would be really special if this sneaker was bought by a South African.”

Wicomb therefore set differing prices for local and international buyers. South Africans could purchase the sneakers for R56,000, but international collectors would have to pay R84,000 for them.

Given the rarity of the shoe, Wicomb said the requested price could have been much higher. But this particular version was 14 years old, and had some technical issues.

“The midsole of this sneaker is made from a compound called polyurethane. It’s a resilient material capable withstanding heavy weight and repetitive forces, but after many years it crumbles and falls apart.”

Although the sneaker was dead stock - in other words, it had never even been tried on - he was unsure of how much utility the buyer would get from the product, and so reduced the asking price.

Wicomb met with an interested local buyer at a local book store in Johannesburg’s Monte Casino.  

As is the case on high value sneaker deals, the buyer wanted to know every step of the shoes’ journey to that point and to verify authenticity.

“He wanted to know how the sneaker had been stores for all of these years, and wanted to check if it was kept cool, dry and away from light.”

When he was comfortable that the shoes were authentic, Wicomb says the buyer payed a R6,000 deposit, and then settled the balance of R50,000 a few months later. These figures have been verified on bank statements seen by Business Insider South Africa.

Although small compared to record-setting international sneaker resales (Nike’s ‘Waffle Shoe’ sold for more than R7 million in July 2019), the Air Max One Parra Amsterdam deal is one of the highest prices paid locally for a pair of sneakers in a private sale. According to Wicomb, it’s also the highest price paid for a sneaker on lay-buy. 

Although unconfirmed, sneaker experts believe the most expensive sneaker to be sold in the South Africa is the Nike MAG 2011. The shoe, made famous in the 1989 Hollywood movie “Back to the Future Part II”, is rumoured to have sold to a private buyer in South Africa for R70,000.

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