MARKO GEORGIEV/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Max Lindley, a Glen Rock middle-schooler, is too young to remember Michael Jordan on the basketball court, but that hasn't stopped his becoming a player himself in the secondary market for Air Jordans.
The kid collects sneakers. The adult snickers — sounds like an expensive hobby requiring a lot of closet space. Then the middle-schooler mentions that someone just offered him $5, 300 for 20 of the 24 pairs of Air Jordans. He turns down the buyer because he thinks he can get more. Maybe it's not just an indulgence after all.
Max Lindley, an eighth-grader at Glen Rock Middle School, takes his sneaker passion very seriously. He has a business on eBay and an ever-growing network of fellow "sneakerheads." He does his research, knows his stuff and likes the hunt, tracking down the pair he wanted and getting the best price for them.
Sneaker collecting, trading and reselling — particularly of Air Jordans — is no laughable kid collectible craze. It's a multibillion-dollar industry and experts see no economic plateau in site.
"Nike has made a real science of keeping the supply well under the demand, " said Matt Powell, a well-known "sneakerologist" and analyst with SportsOneSource, a sporting-goods-industry website. He is also a Forbes magazine contributor on the culture and economics of sneakers.
The Air Jordan brand did $2.7 billion in sales in 2013, and according to Powell, sales are up 15 percent in 2014. And that's just retail. The really big business is in resale. There are 13 million sneaker auctions on eBay, according to campless.com, which tracks such things.
While there are collectors around the world, the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston "has always been the epicenter of sneaker culture in the U.S., " Powell said.
In Glen Rock, Max's mom, Wendy Orseck, sits nearby, she shakes her head and laughs at Max's tutorial for the visitor. He can rattle off fact after fact, including the value of certain pairs, the conversion and measurements of women's sizes to men's and the perfect amount of wear time to maintain a price that "sparks up": not wearing them at all causes the shoe to break down, wearing them too much can damage them.