A tattered, soiled shoe unearthed in the backyard of a Eugene, Oregon, home sold for $1,500. That's actually a fair price considering the backyard belonged to Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, and the shoe was one of the first shoes to sport the Nike swoosh—ever.
Jordan Geller, an avid shoe collector and owner of ShoeZeum in California, purchased the artifact from Jeff Wasson, a utilities worker from Oregon. In 2010, Wasson and Bill Bowerman's son, Tom, unearthed a buried trash pile containing dozens of shoes and an original waffle iron that was used to mold soles. Although the majority of the archeological dig is now preserved in Nike's historical archives, Wasson asked for one piece of corporate history, and the younger Bowerman obliged.
"This is the first real prototype that I've ever seen come to market. It's a once-in-a-lifetime find," Geller told ESPN. "This shoe is really special ... because Bill Bowerman made this from his hands."
Bill Bowerman, who passed away in 1999 and was the track coach at the University of Oregon's Eugene campus until 1972, created the first Nike shoes in the 1970s. The latest addition to Geller's collection is believed to be a prototype of the Moon Shoe, the first Nike shoe with the iconic swoosh made under the company's previous name, Blue Ribbon Sports.
After decades underground, the relic now is framed on Geller's fireplace.Photo: Natalie Langdon