adidas women A Michigan company is paying top dollar for vintage sneakers that will be resold in Japan for up to
Her grandfather, James Brown of Baltimore, sold his big, rather goofy looking blue and black basketball sneakers, which to Rachel’s giggles had once doubled as uproariously funny clown shoes.
Guess a kid has to find out sometime what a grandfather will do for a quick $150.
Brown surrendered the shoes, a pair of 1985 Nike Air Jordans, to a company that will sell them to kids in Japan who are trying, in desperately expensive ways, to be cool. Dozens of people did the same thing as Brown yesterday, lining up in the Sheraton International Hotel in Linthicum to trade their old, sweaty basketball shoes for cash.
“Rachel, God bless her, she’s a smart little thing, and she knows things don’t remain static,” her grandfather attempted to rationalize after counting his money. “We’re talking a highly intelligent baby here.”
The company that bought the shoes, Small Earth Inc., travels around the United States, holding buying sessions about every three weeks. Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Small Earth buys the shoes, photographs them and sends the pictures to dealers in Japan, where particular shoes are all the rage. The dealers then order the shoes, which are sold at a considerable markup.
“The Japanese kids wear blue suits to school,” said Andy Drasiewski, president of the company, trying to explain the inexplicable fads of youth. “See, the only way they can show how cool they are is by what they put on their feet.”
That, of course, only partly explains why some of these basketball shoes are sold in Japan for up to $1,500. What Japanese kids want are old shoes, specifically old Nike shoes, and more specifically, old,
uncommon Nike shoes. A new pair of Air Jordans are unwanted, but an old pair can sell for $900 if they’re black and white and not red and white, which brings in only about half as much. A 1985 pair of Nike University Dunks can sell for $1,500. An Adidas brand or two will also sell, but are not in as high demand.
Drasiewski estimated he will spend $30,000 on shoes turned in at the Sheraton by the time he leaves town, after buying sessions today and tomorrow.
He doesn’t buy every pair of Nikes that walk in the door. Newer shoes just won’t sell in Japan. So, while some people were paid $250 for a pair of shoes they bought 12 or 13 years ago for $60, other people were offered $10 for shoes that cost them $130 a year ago.
Still other people were told their shoes were worthless in Japan and to keep on walking.
Frank Brown of Baltimore, for example, along with his buddy Earl Brown, filled four large garbage bags with shoes and lugged them to the Sheraton. They couldn’t sell a sole. “I just wanted to clear my closet and make some money, and I come up here, and MAN!”
Keith Jack, 22, of Columbia felt somewhat the same way, but he was willing to unload a pair of 1995 Air Jordans for $35. He had paid $140.
“You know, you don’t pay $140 for a pair of tennis shoes and go around wearing them,” he said without a hint of irony. “You don’t wear them unless you’re going on a date or something.”
Drasiewski said he has run into problems in several cities, facing hordes of people who arrive certain they will be paid big money for their shoes.
In fact, he pays top dollar only for a handful of brands from a few scattered years.
The Nike shoes most in demand are the first six editions of the Air Jordans, made from 1985 through 1991, University Dunks, and the Georgetown Terminators. French made Adidas basketball shoes will also earn some cash. ( Drasiewski is also paying for pre 1970 Levis).
“We’re after fashion, not function,” he told one person who had hoped to sell a pair of 1994 Air Jordans, a remake of the much in demand and original 1985 Air Jordans. “To them, it’s like the original is the Picasso and you have a reprint of the Picasso.”
Drasiewski said sellers should not try to hide scuffs or glue a sole or even change insets, because all of those fixes decrease, rather than increase, the value of the shoe in Japan.
As for Grandpa Brown, he was laughing so perhaps he was only kidding but it could be he was feeling a little guilt over his beloved granddaughter Rachel. He had his own plans for the day.