A 'degenerate collector' paid $9,000 for Trump sneakers -- and says they're worth more

Aliya Schneider, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Lifestyles

PHILADELPHIA -- Roman Sharf is a collector. His most recent addition to his conglomeration? A $9,000 pair of sneakers autographed by former President Donald Trump.

The golden high tops, which don an American flag on the ankle and the letter T in the center, are titled “Never Surrender.” The image of the shoes went viral after Trump unveiled them at Sneaker Con in Philadelphia in February. Sharf, who lives in Doylesown, bid on his pair at the sneakerhead convention.

The Bucks County businessman said he believed the sneakers to be worth $10,000 before he began bidding. Shortly after the auction, he was offered $12,000 for them. He has since been offered $25,000, he said.

“People are telling me they’re worth 100 grand,” said Sharf, 48. “But the reality of the situation is they are worth zero until I decide to sell them. And for now, they’re being displayed in my office alongside with a hat that Donald Trump signed for me, and the marker that he signed it with. And it’s a story to tell.”

After winning the signed shoes, Sharf and his son, who sells sneakers, went to lunch with the former president at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. They discussed golf and sneakers. Trump ordered a burger and fries with a coke, Sharf said.

“I felt the presence of a boss,” said Sharf, who supports Trump. “… But yet, not for a second did I feel belittled, or as if I didn’t belong.”

Sharf runs a self-described gray market luxury watch dealing company called Luxury Bazaar. That means he trades luxury watches “without being authorized by the brand to do so on their behalf,” and his company makes more than $150 million a year while doing it, according to his YouTube channel. Luxury Bazaar has offices in Southampton, Bucks County, and in Hong Kong.

Sharf’s collection

In addition to the sneakers, Sharf’s Southampton office houses a Formula One racecar, vintage weapons, including a Chinese hand cannon from 1600, Muhammad Ali memorabilia, helmets, and old cassette tapes.

“I’m a collector by nature,” he said. “I sometimes like to refer to myself as a degenerate collector because sometimes I over-buy stuff.”

While he’s not currently planning on selling his Trump sneakers, thinking about the resale value helps justify purchases of this sort to his wife, he joked.

“Going into buying those sneakers, in the back of my head I’m saying okay, this thing is gonna be money in the bank, these sneakers are going to be worth a fortune,” he said. “Now whether I’m going to sell them or not is irrelevant, because nine out of ten times collectors don’t end up selling stuff. We tend to hoard things.”

He said that if he were to sell his Trump sneakers, he would donate the money to a charitable cause, such as his own organization called Watches for Good — which he said has raised money for Ukraine and other initiatives through — or the American Cancer Society.

“But the collector in me is like, ‘I can’t sell them,’” he said. “I can’t. I mean, like, look at this. This is like, the most famous pair of shoes. Well, at the moment anyway. Right? And I have a hat to match.”

“It’s a tough call,” he added.


A political statement

On the day of the convention, Sharf posted a photo on Instagram of his new sneakers and tagged Trump.

In a video he posted two days later, he said he wasn’t trying to make a political statement by purchasing the shoes. But when his wining bid entered the public eye, people started messaging him saying they would no longer do business with him because he’s a Trump supporter, he said.

In the media frenzy over the shoes, some outlets called him a “Russian oligarch.” But Sharf said he was actually born in Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union when he immigrated to the United States at age 13.

“I thought that people had done business with Luxury Bazaar because we’ve been in business for 21 years, because of trust, because of personalized customer service that we provide, and great pricing, but I guess I was wrong,” he said in the video.

“You want to hate me for wanting this country to be great again? Go ahead and judge a sneakerhead,” he added, before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sharf, a Republican, said he values freedom of speech, faith, and what he calls “family values” when it comes to politics. “To me, it’s family, God, country,” said Sharf, an Army veteran. “I’m a patriot of this country.”

He said doesn’t support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s of invasion of Ukraine.

Trump has repeatedly praised Putin going back to his 2016 campaign. Last month, Trump voiced opposition to aid to Ukraine and also said he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet defense spending guidelines.

When asked about Trump’s praise for Putin, Sharf said he believes there is more going on behind the scenes than the public is aware of, and that Trump would be able to end the war if he wins the 2024 election.

The sneakerhead said he typically keeps politics off of his social media, where he platforms luxury watch content. But there’s been exceptions, such as when he posted about supporting police after the outcry following the murder of George Floyd and when he raised money in support of Ukraine, he said.

And now there is the video about the Trump high tops, in which he explains he’s a Republican and responds to being labeled a Russian oligarch.

“This wasn’t planned,” he said. “This was literally me going out buying a pair of sneakers, and the world went haywire.”

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