A Sneaker Collector's Advice on Beating the Bots

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Nike React Element 87 / Nike

Welcome to Sneakerhead Spending Diariestips and intel from sneaker collectors around the country on how to cop the latest release, buy safely on the secondary market, and resell your NIB sneakers like a pro. Plus, nerd out with them on their favorite pairs and “the one that got away.”

Who: Darren Griffin, a Texas-based sneakerhead and Nice Kicks editor with a soft spot for strong coffee, hardcover books, and jetting off to far-flung destinations on the weekend.

Age: 36

Location: Austin, Texas

Years Spent Collecting Sneakers: 20

“Like most guys, I got into sneakers through basketball. Seeing what athletes wore and copping their signature pair as a teenager is really what started my obsession. As I got older and learned more about sneakers I was drawn to the designs and stories behind them. I also love the way a fresh pair makes you feel. Every new pair is like the best haircut you've ever gotten or the best first-day-of-school outfit you ever wore.”

Total Number of Pairs: 300+

“I’ve given 100-150 pairs away over the last two years, so now I’m at around 300 pairs. I just don’t have enough space to store all of them anymore—and I only want to keep what I wear, intend to wear, or used to wear and now has sentimental value for me.”

Value of Collection: $20,000 - $30,000

"Considering I wear pretty much all of my sneakers, some that would have substantial DS (deadstock) value simply don't. And I'm ok with that. Even still, much of my collection remains in good/mint condition so the really great pairs can still fetch a good sum. Those that could bring in the biggest haul? A few pairs of OG Air Jordans from the '90s, some autographed signature silhouettes from a couple basketball and football players, a few pair of Yeezys, and a few other things. There's always more that you want. More that you feel you need to have to "complete" your collection. I'll get there one day."

Favorite Sneakers or Brands: None… Okay, Air Jordans

“For me, brand loyalty is a bit contrived. What's exciting about sneakers is the uniqueness in each brand and what they can create. Sure, everyone has favorites, but I'd say my collection is very diverse. There's a little bit of everything.

That said, some of my favorite pairs are Jordans. I have some original Air Jordans that aren't even wearable anymore. They hold no real monetary value, but I keep them because they mean something to me. I have a pair of Jordan 5s from 1990. The sole has completely come off of them but it's really beautiful and artistic. I also have pairs of Air Jordan 9s and Air Jordan 16s that are worn in a similar fashion. Those shoes are dear because after casual wears they became basketball sneakers and a new level of connectivity begins. I can look at certain shoes and remember what year of high school or college I was in. What basketball court I was playing on and who I was playing with. If I was in Houston or Austin or traveling and brought a pair to play in a random pick-up game. For the most part, it all ties back to basketball and the moments and friendships the game created for me."

Sneaker-Buying Strategy: Buy, Wear, Donate. Repeat.

“My strategy is to buy what I like and wear it. Over the years it's gotten more difficult to buy everything that I want because of hype (and bots). But the purchasing strategy doesn't change as a result. I never buy to resell. If I buy it, I'm wearing it.

I may be an anomaly, but I don't sell my sneakers. Never have. What I don't want, or can stand to give, I gift to family, friends and either the Goodwill or Salvation Army.”

Sneaker Budget Per Year: $500 - $1,000

“I’ve cut back substantially. I have more than enough these days and the chase isn’t as exciting as it once was.

I can think back to one of my first trips to New York City as an adult, traveling on my own. I'd gone to the courts on West 4th not to play, but just to hang out and watch. Afterwards I wandered around for hours just canvassing the city, taking it all in. A stumbled into a sneaker store near Soho—I don't even remember what it was called—and I bought a pair of Bo Jackson's (SC Trainers) that I'd never seen in Texas.

Years later, during my first trip to Tokyo, I finally had a chance to visit a store I'd grew up enamored with, called atmos. I didn't buy anything because my budget was very slim. But just being there, browsing the shelves, seeing what people walking into the store were wearing, what the staff was wearing, is something I've never forget. It was discovery on a scale far beyond anything I'd experienced prior. Moments like those are much harder to come by these days—with Instagram, social media, the Internet, you’re over a sneaker before it’s released.”

Cop of the Year: Nike Air Zoom Generation in Black and Red

“I'm a huge LeBron James fan and never owned a pair of his first signature shoe with Nike. It was a great purchase for me. I got them from a shop in Atlanta. There's just something about a black leather basketball shoe that gets me. Not to mention they're one of the shoe’s original colorways so there's some history behind them.”

Recent Misses: Virgil Abloh x Nike

"It's always interesting to people when I tell them that I can't get something. Everyone either thinks I have it already, or can get it if not. Not true. Sure, I have access others may not, but it's not always appropriate to tap into those connects. And sometimes it’s simply crazy demand and limited supply. That gets us all. Even the biggest sneakerheads with the best plug misses out on some stuff. Doesn't really matter what it is, you just won't get everything. Sure, you can pay double or triple or more the original retail value, but that's a game I don't play very often."

Advice for Other Sneaker Collectors: Don’t sweat the bots.

“My thing with buying sneakers is that it's best to score hard-to-acquire things through traditional channels. Be consistent and faithful to your local shop. Buy your sneakers there, build relationships with the employees, and show your face even if you don't have money to buy anything. Support your shop no matter what. In turn, they'll look out for you in a similar manner.

Growing up on the southside of Houston, Texas in the ‘90s, my shop was Active Athlete. It's one of the oldest Jordan Brand accounts in the country and a shop I grew up in. I went in anytime I had a chance. It's in a shopping center on Cullen Avenue. There's always been at least one grocery store there and one major department store. So, whenever my mother or grandmother went to the store, I went to Active Athlete. We didn't have much money so my visits were more for discovery and to point out what I wanted for birthdays and Christmas far in advance. They knew my face very well. Lots has changed there since I was young. I still swing by when I'm in town. There's still a sense of community there."

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