What is thought to be the only full collection of Supreme decks is going under the hammer at Sotheby’s.
The walls at Sotheby’s auction house are in rare form, covered in images from superstars of the contemporary art world: George Condo, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, Marilyn Minter, and Richard Prince. A distorted vision of Superman in Condo’s signature style stares viewers down; so does Minter’s close-up of a mouth, edges beaded with sweat, crunching down on a pearl necklace. The Renaissance is represented here, too. No less a piece than “The Last Supper,” Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterwork, hangs from the white walls. There’s a catch, because of course there’s a catch: these aren’t the actual iconic works of art. They all appear on Supreme skate decks.
That’s because, on January 25th, Sotheby’s will auction off what it says is the only privately-owned complete set of 248, released over 20 years along with each Thursday drop. The estimated cost for a catalog that any teen would die for? $800,000 to 1.2 million.
Even in the supercharged auction world, $1.2 million is a considerable amount of cash. The priciest watch that sold during the December round of New York auctions, a “Dark Star” Rolex, moved for $1.5 million. Other Sotheby’s comparables include a 6.46-carat pink diamond that sold for $1.3 million and a 2015 Bugatti with a final hammer price of just under $2 million. Now, plywood!
The collection of Supreme decks on offer is truly complete: the set even has the Louis Vuitton-monogrammed planks from 2000, which led the luxury house to issue a cease-and-desist that should have led to all of them being destroyed. “The Last Supper” set comes with a bonus Jesus because one of the decks was a Japan-only release. What’s cooler than one Jesus? Two.
Sotheby’s is not the first place you’d expect to see Supreme skateboard collection. But exhibiting and selling the decks was a no brainer, according to Noah Wunsch, Sotheby’s vice president of global digital and marketing strategy. “What we stand for, and really, this is underneath our logo, is that collectors gather here. This is a new form of collecting,” Wunsch said. “It’s one that a number of people are dedicated to.” Wunsch is learning the lingo: he described the sale as both “the biggest drop in history” and “the Holy Grail.”
That doesn’t mean Sotheby’s wasn’t forced to stretch itself a little to make the sale possible. The auction house hired a third-party specialist to authenticate all the boards—and the specialist also helped inform the estimate. “[Streetwear authenticators] are becoming more and more popular,” Wunsch said. “This is a category that is growing by the day. So, it wasn’t actually too difficult [to find someone].”
While the optics are undeniably strange—Prestige Auction House Sells Skateboards—if any brand’s customers are prepared for an auction setting, they’re Supreme’s. Collectors in the auction world are used to tracking down the rare item they’re obsessed with, and competing with other bidders on a secondary market. They understand how unimpeachable provenance and scarcity inflates an item’s value. Ever tried to buy a box logo tee? The dynamic is identical, if more casually dressed.
The auction also speaks more broadly to how deeply streetwear has penetrated the luxury goods market. This isn’t even the first time streetwear-adjacent goods have come under the hammer at international auction houses. Last year, Phillips hosted a whole event around sneakers. An auction house called Artcurial organized a sale consisting of rare Supreme items that just so happened to eclipse the one-million-dollar mark in sales. And this isn’t even the first time Sotheby’s put skate decks up for auction: a set of boards designed by Kaws went up for sale last summer. In Wunsch’s eyes, items related to streetwear culture are already fixtures on the auction scene. “I don’t mean to be coy here,” he said, but “it depends how you define streetwear and culture, because, again, some people might say that a KAWS statue is streetwear. It’s skate culture. I think it is a work of art, but I also think it’s streetwear and skate culture as well.” The blurring of the lines between streetwear and luxury is no longer some trite phrase fashion bloggers overuse—it’s causing material changes in the art and fashion worlds, rocketing into the universe of the hyper wealthy. Virgil Abloh now heads up a storied French luxury house; Sotheby’s auctions off Supreme. This is the new world order.
To many, treating a skateboard as decor designates a person as an insouciant man child; I can only guess that buying a vast collection valued at $1.2 million prompts what scientists call Benjamin Buttonification. But if a Koch brother can keep a cellar stocked with expensive wine he never plans on drinking, then what’s so different about hoarding a collection of skate decks? Sotheby’s recognizes that collecting communities orbiting around streetwear are emerging—and, crucially, growing wealthier. It all adds up to a collection of skate decks that might be worth over a million dollars.