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Akin to gambling and pulling rare skins or cards in games like CS:GO and FIFA, sneaker mystery boxes have begun to go viral once again, and for the wrong reasons. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a “mystery box” is a bundle of items that the buyer pays for without knowing the contents of the box. For many, they hope maybe they can score an ultra-grail sneaker for just a few hundred dollars, however, the reality of the situation is that 9 times out of 10 you’re likely to receive products well under the value of what you coughed up. What has us talking about mystery boxes like we're back in the infancy of sneaker YouTube? Viral videos from SneakerCon Ft. Lauderdale showcasing the resell store Royal One selling $300 mystery boxes with plenty of unhappy customers.
Looking at how mystery boxes were presented in the past, a slew of sneaker YouTubers would unbox thousands of dollars worth of products and often receive more in value than what they paid in turn making viewers think they have great odds of having similar results. Some of these boxes would come from resell stores while other brands that emerged during this period specialized in this format and strictly sold mystery boxes to customers online.
These videos online often targeted a younger audience who are more impressionable and easily swayed into making a rash decision like dropping hundreds of dollars for a box that contains unknown items. Eventually, this phase left the sneaker scene on YouTube just as quickly as it emerged once comment sections and videos from unhappy customers began to flood the internet.
That is what makes this full-circle moment so ironic considering those who have been heavily invested in the sneaker community for years have seen this before. Newer sneakerheads who have entered the scene during the explosion that occurred from 2020 to the present day may not have the same familiarity that others have, so it's no surprise this has once again fooled those new to the scene.
Taking a look at the videos posted by Chase Briner, owner of Royal One, piles of colorful boxes with intricate graphics were stacked tall at his booth in Ft. Lauderdale and eventually sold out prior to the end of the day-long event. The valuation of the sneakers inside these $300 boxes was laughable as one video showcased an individual receiving the Nike SB Dunk Low “Polaroid” with a sticker price of $400. Those without knowledge of the market may think they have scored a $100 profit, though taking a look at the value on secondary marketplaces like eBay or StockX will show the average price for the sneaker sits at under $200. Additional trinkets and accessories are strewn throughout the packages that in actuality don’t amount to much value for the buyer.
Stepping into the shoes of those offering these mystery boxes, it’s a great way to get rid of unwanted inventory or products that are not moving from your store while also making insane margins on used sneakers, however, this raises questions on the morality of allowing what is essentially gambling at an event and in a space filled with a young demographic. We’ve seen legislation in the EU ban practices utilized by companies in the video game space for predatory “loot box” practices, so to see a major organization like SneakerCon put money before ethics and allow vendors like Royal One to sell mystery boxes is disheartening.
While not illegal, it’s again a question of morals for a company that has a major presence in the sneaker community to allow vendors to sell mystery boxes to those in attendance. Hopefully going forward we see practices like this removed from large-scale sneaker events (and the community as a whole), though we’ll have to wait and see. For more updates on the latest happenings in the sneaker and streetwear world, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app.