A few months ago, I decided to redirect some of my collecting energy towards new frontiers. In doing so, I made the decision to liquidate my collection of vintage Vans shoes. Skateboarding was a big part of my adolescence, and I always loved placing my order for a customized pair of Vans, made to my exact color specifications. It took about three months to receive them, but when they arrived, it was a glorious occasion. I used to order two pair of Vans at a time because my shoes got tore up from skating. I still think about all those one of a kind pairs of Vans I wore out and threw away…
The beginnings of my Vans collection began in 1998, when the company closed its plant in CA and began contracting all manufacturing in China and Korea. I was confident that this move would adversely affect quality, so I sought out to purchase several pairs of American made Vans to wear and enjoy. I did the same thing when Converse All Stars outsourced their manufacturing to China and sadly, I’m down to my last few pairs.
As I was purchasing American Vans for casual wear, I began to feel nostalgic about the early styles, and the days when I’d to custom order any color combination imaginable. I decided to take my search a step further by getting in touch with some defunct skate shop owners in hopes that they had old inventory lying around. I hit the jackpot, and was fortunate to acquire a nice collection of early 1980’s dead stock Vans in the classic styles (Style 36, Style 38, Slip-ons, etc). My only regret was not buying more at the time. Surprisingly, the dealers who had been sitting on their unsold inventory for 15+ years were still adamant about charging me retail for the shoes! I can’t complain because they have appreciated in value since I purchased them.
I was sad when I sold off the collection but I did it for several reasons. I have to keep my collecting in check. I don’t like to spread my interests too thin because I only have so much time in a day to devote to my hobbies. I also try and avoid clutter. The Vans sat in boxes for years in my storage room and I seldom looked at them, nor did I ever receive requests to look at them.
The most important basis for selling was my concern about the investment potential of vintage Vans in the future. Over the last 10 years, I have watched early 1970-80’s skateboard decks and accessories greatly appreciate in value and demand. I assumed that dead stock examples of classic Vans would be a perfect complement for advanced skateboard collectors. Sadly, I am not seeing this happening.
In the meantime, sneaker collecting continues to grow and expand beyond Air Jordans and other Nike styles to encompass peripheral brands including Addidas, Pumas, Vans, etc. Also, the Japanese have been avid collectors of Americana for years, particularly vintage apparel, and they still appear to have a strong interest in early Vans. However, sneaker collectors (AKA “sneakerheads”) and Japanese fashion appears detached from the history and counterculture of Vans and skateboarding. They purchase shoes with the intent to wear and not necessarily preserve. Although ebay sales indicate that vintage Vans are hot, there is little guarantee for their future.
I would have preferred selling the shoes to individuals who intended on keeping them pristine in the tissue wrap like I did. I like to think there’s is a small chance that my Vans will remain virgins, and spared from the abuse of human feet. I find comfort in the words my friend (and Nike collector) told me about serious sneakerheads. He said that, “Many sneakerheads buy two pairs, one to rock and one to stock.” Let’s hope my beautiful Vans are the ones being stocked.