Four collectors share their love of Nike’s early days, and their quest for the rarest of the rare.
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Please note: This is a longform piece in collaboration with another writer, Nick Santora, for SneakerNews.com. I conceived and led the piece, writing the introduction and coordinating the interviews with four collectors. I conducted three of the four interviews, with Nick conducting the fourth. Due to the overall length of the piece, I am including here only the intro and the first interview. For the full article and a look at the layout I co-directed, please visit: https://sneakernews.com/2016/04/29/vintage-nike-collectors/
There is no brand of sneakers collected more than Nike. With a rich and well documented history, influence from their roster of superstar athletes throughout the years, and the best marketing of any athletic brand ever, love for Nike has been instilled into multiple generations of sneaker enthusiasts, creating dedicated collectors across the globe. Since Nike has an extensive assortment of models for various sports and styles with everything from mainstream genres like basketball to more obscure sub-brands like Nike ACG, collectors can get as general or specific as they want. Of course, the majority opt to stick with the most well-known categories like Air Jordans, LeBrons, and Air Maxes—and there’s nothing wrong with that—but the more obsessive Nike collectors always dig a little deeper.
One of these specific groups is who we’ll get acquainted with today: vintage collectors. While most Nike collectors tend to focus on the years since the mid 1980s after Michael Jordan emerged and visible Air debuted, vintage collectors are more interested in the brand’s earliest days when running was king and The Swoosh was still in its infancy.
There are varying opinions of what qualifies as “vintage” when it comes to sneakers. Some people will already qualify releases from the early 2000’s as vintage, and most have no problem putting a shoe from the ‘90s under the category. But for our purposes in this feature, we’re going to focus on collectors who specialize in the pre-Air Jordan era. Using 1985 as a cut-off point to mark the “first era” of Nike from 1972-1984, we had four of the USA’s biggest vintage aficionados share their passion for the sneakers they collect.
Jed Likos Buffalo, NY
Age: 35 Instagram: @irememberthose
When it comes to vintage sneakers, few out there have as much passion and enthusiasm as Jed Likos. A born collector, Jed got his start in the world of obsessive hoarding that many of us know all too well at age three, when he just had to have every Star Wars toy on the market. In the years since, he eventually focused his collecting habits on vintage Nike shoes, and has amassed one of the world’s most impressive stockpiles of sneakers dating from the brand’s birth to roughly the early 1990’s. Instead of just hoarding his shoes, Jed began his own archival, museum-like website I Remember Those to share them and unite other collectors around the globe.
A believer in the maxim “quality over quantity”, Jed has been able to find and curate a collection containing some of the earliest and rarest Nike running models, including deadstock pairs of the Nike Marathon and Obori from 1972—two of Nike’s first and most legendary shoes from the brand’s inception. In addition to having a few of Nike’s rarest running models, Jed has also scored some choice basketball shoes, namely a pair of George Gervin’s “Iceman” Blazers. So how the hell does he find all these amazing shoes? Jed shares his collecting story below, along with a few helpful tips on how you too can become a master of the vintage sneaker game.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first start collecting vintage Nike shoes? And what do you think initially made you interested in collecting?
I have been engrossed in Nike product since the mid to late ‘80s and started actively collecting and pursuing it since the early days of eBay, around 1999. I was born a collector and it all started out with Star Wars. Before I could read a word, I could identify every single character on the back of the Star Wars action figure packaging. When Return of The Jedi came out in 1983, I became obsessed. I had to have every single figure, ship, and accessory…I was 3. In the mid to late ‘80s I started collecting baseball cards and comic books. As a child, I always gravitated towards the older stuff…Mickey Mantle instead of Don Mattingly; Jackie Robinson instead of Nolan Ryan. My bedroom was covered in posters and pictures of athletes I never once had the opportunity to witness and had only read about. There was a certain mystique tied into my love of these athletes, which naturally progressed into my passion of hunting down and collecting early Nike product.
What is it about Nike that has made you focus on that brand more than others?
The early Weiden+Kennedy advertising campaigns from the mid/late 80’s made me fall in love with the brand. I fondly remember sifting through issues of Sports Illustrated as a kid, looking for the latest David Robinson or Andre Agassi ad. Growing up, all of my favorite athletes were endorsed by Nike and everything I wore was affiliated with them. If I was going to commit to hanging up a 6-foot ‘Don’t I Know You?’ Bo Jackson poster in my bedroom, you know I had to have the trainers he was wearing!!
Give us the story on how you came up on your epic score of the lot of very early Made in Japan running models.
My wife was expecting and I was up late getting things set and organized around the house for the arrival of our second child. Before I called it quits for the night, I decided to do one final search on eBay—as I do Every. Single. Night.—and came across a pair of deadstock pre-registered Marathons from 1972. The seller had a very reasonable Buy It Now price and I contacted him to see if he would end the auction early. Within seconds, the seller responded back. They had no problem ending the auction and asked me if I was “into shoes” and sent me a picture of 25 pairs of brand new pre-1974 Made in Japan Nike and Onitsuka Tiger product. I was in complete and utter shock. It was the stash that all collectors dream about. I told him that I was interested in all of the product and wished to deal outside of eBay. At the time, I literally had NO money and furiously sold off product to fellow collectors to fund the purchase. It took a while to secure all of the lot, but I eventually did and still can’t believe it!
Without revealing all your secrets, how do you find all of these rare shoes?
Research. Patience. Persistency. Networking. Luck.
RESEARCH. If you’re planning a road trip or taking a Sunday drive, try to find out if there are any family owned sporting goods stores along the way. Call beforehand (ask to speak to the owner/manager) and politely ask if they have older product that is sitting around or that they’d like to get rid of. Don’t get discouraged if you come across a spot and the owner is reluctant to letting you into the backroom. I came across a store a couple years ago that still had product from the early ‘80s on the shelves and am still trying to get past the cash register.
PATIENCE. If you’re trying to obtain a pair of 1973 suede Oboris, it may take years to find them. Set aside money (a lot) for the day they finally come up and try your best not to blow it on random models that come up every two weeks (I should start listening to my own advice).
PERSISTENCY. Don’t give up and don’t get frustrated. You will NOT win every single auction you bid on. The ‘newly listed’ eBay option on your mobile phone will become your best friend. Over the summer when I’m not teaching 4th grade, I may conduct the same search 50 times a day…all in hopes that someone will list that pair you have been searching for the last three years for a Buy It Now of $24.99. Yes, it has happened.
NETWORKING. I have had nothing but positive experiences when dealing with vintage collectors. They’re a different breed…very mature, knowledgeable, professional, and obsessive. In my search for product, I have met some truly incredible people, all of them who share the same love and passion. I have dealt with people from all across the world: Japan, Malaysia, Germany, France. Be humble and go out of your way to help others when they are in need. You never know when YOU are going to need a favor from someone who lives on the other side of the planet.
LUCK. Some days are better than others and some people have more of it than you. All collectors have it at some point or another. If you’re day hasn’t come, it will…maybe not tomorrow, or even next year, but it will.
I know you also collect newer shoes past the early running era. Do you prefer that early stuff over the later models from the ‘80s and ‘90s, or do you love it all equally?
I love it ALL!! For me, it’s not all about the price and rarity factor of a model. I can appreciate a pair of 1989 Aqua Boots as much as a pair of big bubble Air Max 1’s or metallic Jordan 1’s. I find beauty and originality in the design components of all Nike product, which is why I am so drawn to it.
Tell us about your site I Remember Those.
I Remember Those is an online vintage database and networking platform. The basis of the website is to document Nike product between 1972-1999 and share the experiences from various passionate collectors from around the globe. In the future, I hope to travel the world and tell the stories of these collectors. Through I Remember Those, I have met some incredible people from all parts of the world—people I now consider close friends. I want to turn I Remember Those into a complete visual and auditory experience. The concept is based around the idea that many of our fondest childhood memories often coincide with the sneakers that we wore.