In 2018, a collection of 248 Supreme skate decks — believed to comprise every version ever produced — sold for $800,000 at auction with Sotheby’s. A new Supreme sale is expected to fetch more than twice that amount.
Christie’s anticipates that 21-year-old James Bogart’s collection of what is purportedly every Supreme box-logo T-shirt ever released will realize at around $2 million. It’s the first known comprehensive archive of these tees, and the auction house says it’s “poised to be the most valuable collection of Supreme material to ever be offered in a single sale.”
The archive comprises T-shirts produced between the brand’s inception in 1994 through 2020, and is being offered for private sale on Monday. The landmark sale comes at an interesting time for the Supreme, which was just acquired by VF Corp. in a deal that valued the skate company at approximately $2.1 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Over a Zoom call from Florence, Italy, where the Vancouver, B.C. native is studying the business of fashion at Polimoda, Bogart tells me he began collecting Supreme six years ago, when he was 15. Since then, he’s occupied most of his time buying, trading and selling items. “That’s always been the aim and direction: just accumulate as much as humanly possible,” he says.
Amassing a true collection of every released box-logo tee, however, seemed out of reach initially: “It’s been deemed impossible by pretty much everyone who’s relevant in the space.”
Below, the Supreme expert tells us about how he did it, why he’s selling it now and what he thinks of the company’s recent news.
When did you start to believe it would be possible to amass a complete collection of box-logo tees?
About two years ago, I thought maybe this is possible. Over the next 12 months, I tapped all of my friends and all respectable collectors to try to formulate a list of what in fact did exist — just getting it written down on paper of what I needed to hunt for, which turned out to be one of the most difficult things. It’s very challenging coming to a consensus because a lot of the pieces that I did end up finding, no one even knew that they were in existence. People who have been around the brand from its inception — they were still not aware those pieces were out there, so as soon as we’d come to that consensus that this is what exists, the target was sort of set and I don’t think anyone believed that I would be able to do it, so pretty much for the last two years that’s what’s been occupying my time.
What was the most expensive or difficult one to find?
The largest financial commitment that I made undoubtedly was the last one that I bought, a one-of-one sample tie-dye T-shirt that was tie-dyed first, then they decided they were going to stick a box logo on it.
The most difficult one to get was probably a 1997 red box-logo Arabic font tee. It was absolutely impossible; people have only ever seen one in existence. I think it was maybe because it was traditionally not very popular amongst the New York crowd in 1997. I found it with a collector from Long Island. He had been holding it in his basement and he agreed to sell it to me because he was worried about a potential flood. No one knew he had it and I managed to get a hold of him.
So was this something where other collectors and sellers knew you were focused on this collection and came to you?
With the core group of people who do have a lot of this product and do touch a lot of this product, they definitely knew I’d always be in the market hunting for things, but at a certain point I became unapproachable because I was the only person really keeping track of what I was missing. So most of the time it was a no as far as if I was going to buy something or not, because chances are I already had it. It was all me hunting. Very few times did people come to me with items they knew I needed.
Do you know how much you’ve spent over the years, if you’re comfortable saying?
I wouldn’t have a problem sharing it — the problem is, since I’ve always been after the very best condition in all of these T-shirts, it’s really difficult to pinpoint a final cost, because so many of them came into my hands one time, two times, three times. They got traded, swapped out. I bought multiples of some, traded off the rest. It’d be very difficult to come to one single number.
Why do you feel now is the right time to sell? Can you tell me about the decision to work with Christies? What the experience has been like working with them?
For me and the people who really enjoy the hunt and collecting everything, specifically for the box logo T-shirts, it’s such a large accomplishment that I feel that it needs to be shared on a large stage, and the best way to do that is putting it up for sale. It’s not doing me any favors sitting there complete anymore.
I think Christie’s brings a level of stature and exposure that’s unparalleled, unmatched in a lot of ways, and I think that the combination of my granular expertise for this collection, paired with their stature, exposure and breadth of clientele, it’s a fantastic match. So far, so good. We’ve been working together for quite a long time now and I’m very excited to see it all come together.
What do you think about the estimate that it will sell for around $2 million? Do you think it will sell quickly?
It was an accumulation of what everyone was telling me, of what it could potentially be worth. So when I took a look at the sale from 2018 for the skateboard decks, people started making comparisons between that sale and the contents of that sale, the entire skateboard lot, and the contents of what I had accumulated. And after taking a look at it and hearing everyone’s opinions that I deeply respected, who know the space very well, that’s the number that came to the surface.
I don’t really have any expectations. For me, I’m just going to be really happy to get it out there and share it with the world.
What are your thoughts on Supreme’s recent sale to VF corp?
I think it’s the best move they could have possibly made. I think if you take a look at what the Carlyle Group has done through their history, it’s been very aggressive. I don’t think it was working necessarily for Supreme in the sense that it’s such rapid growth. There’s no possible way to stay on that fast track and sustain what they were doing as far as stock went and as far as how aggressive they were in broaching new markets. So the fact they did bring on longtime friends and people who were very familiar with Supreme’s brand and company identity, I think it’s the best move possible.
Will you be continuing to collect Supreme after this? Any specific goals to amass a complete collection again?
Always… I don’t know what the future holds but what I do know is if I was going to push for a complete collection, I really wanted it to be the tees because that was the most difficult one by miles. For example, the decks have been done multiple times now and there’s multiple complete sets out there. And as far as the crewnecks and hoodies go, they’re not as interesting and there aren’t as many variations, so I’m not sure what the future holds.
What’s next for you after school?
I have absolutely no idea. I came out to Europe to study here because I wanted to bridge what I know about North American streetwear with Europe’s idea of traditional luxury. I want to bring that back home at some point following the end of my schooling to see what I can do with that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.