If you've ever shown a passing interest in Supreme-related imagery on Instagram, chances are you've probably come across the account of 22-year-old Eric Whiteback. Whether it's playing a few licks on a branded guitar and amp — or more comedic fare that pokes fun at the buying process on Supreme's online store — Whiteback's sensibility is more akin to someone passionate about things, than someone who is using his 146k following to brag about what he has managed to get his hands on.
Perhaps what is most different about Whiteback since we last caught up with him in 2017 is a newfound mission to turn the "cheapest" Supreme item — in this case, a pack of poppy seeds from the brand's Spring/Summer 2018 drop — into the most valuable; a branded pinball machine which now retails for as high as $70,000 on eBay.
Inspired by the exploits of Kyle McDonald's "One red paperclip" — which saw the Canadian blogger executing 14 trades to turn the desktop accouterment into a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan — Whiteback, of course, wanted to put his own Supreme twist on the year-long mission.
We recently caught up with Whiteback to discuss his hobby, the trades he's executed thus far, and his plans for the pinball machine — if and when he's able to pull it off.
Can you tell me a little about your collecting background and how you got into Supreme?
I’ve collected different things my whole life. Most notably, I collected sports memorabilia for quite a few years. But after really getting into Supreme, I sold that whole sports collection to fund my new Supreme collection. I first started to seriously collect Supreme items about five years ago.
What would you say your current Supreme collection looks like right now? Does it ever become a burden?
My collection is currently a complete hodge-podge of apparel, accessories, skate decks, stickers and more. It definitely becomes a burden keeping track of everything. That’s why I’ve decided to part with a huge portion of my collection in 2019.
When people write about Supreme - or hype streetwear in general - they often focus on the resale aftermarket. Do you think trading and bartering is a lost art?
Absolutely not. In a lot of ways, I think the resale market is where people actually learn this art. While item-for-item transactions don’t occur regularly, the cycle usually looks something like this: sell an item for cash…use that cash to buy another item. Negotiation occurs on both ends of this exchange, and the net result is an item-for-item swap.
Can you walk me through the timeline of each individual trade you've made thus far, and was there a particular step along the way that was particularly memorable?
Trade 1: Poppy Seeds ($5 Value) for Digi Camo Beanie ($50 Value) Trade 2: Digo Camo Beanie for Camo Hockey Jersey ($125 Value) Trade 3: Camo Hockey Jersey for Akira Hoodie ($200 Value) Trade 4: Akira Hoodie for Gucci Mane Tee ($350 Value) Trade 5: Gucci Mane Tee for Japan Relief Box Logo Tee ($600 Value) Trade 6: Japan Relief Box Logo for Kelly Green Box Logo Tee ($1100 Value) Trade 7: Kelly Green Box Logo for 1997 Black/Grey Box Logo Tee ($1500 Value) Trade 8: 1997 Black/Grey Box Logo for Coleman Mini Bike ($3000+ Value)
My most memorable trade so far was certainly my eight trade: the 1997 Box Logo Tee for the Supreme x Coleman Mini Bike. The bike is valued at a fair bit more than the item I traded it for it, but it’s also enormous and hard to move. This played to my advantage. I had a friend with the mini bike who didn’t want to deal with trying to sell it or ship it. So I put my 1997 Box Logo tee in my car and drove to his place. I gave him the tee, and loaded the Mini Bike into the back of my car.
I’m also expecting the next trade to be memorable, as I have agreed to hand deliver the Mini Bike anywhere in the Northeast United States for my next trade. If anyone would like to make me a serious trade offer for the mini bike, please send me a DM on my Instagram.
Did you get a sense the people were trading with you to simply help you on your mission, or rather, do you think it speaks to the idea that a price tag doesn't always properly reflect a person's individual passion for an item?
In the early stages, I think people were willing to trade with me to help me on my mission. For many people, trading a $50 item for a $10 item isn’t a huge deal. But now that I’m working with higher-value items, people are trading because of the item they are receiving.
In bartering, do you think someone inevitably gets the "bad deal" or is that just part of the process?
I don’t think that someone getting a “bad deal” is inevitable. Mutually beneficial trades/transactions are definitely possible. This is one of the reasons that I give a shout out on my IG to everyone that I trade with. I try to add value for them in order to help make my trades even more beneficial for everyone involved.
You had something like 35,000 followers on Instagram in July 2017, and sat at 144,000 as we closed out 2018. Do you think your mission would be possible without social media?
I think it would still be possible, but it would certainly be much more difficult. Being able to offer a trade to over 100,000 people usually means there will be at least one person who is willing to make a trade in your favor. It’s also an enormous help that Highsnobiety has caught onto this. Now there will be substantially more people following along, and it might even be one of your readers who I make my next trade with.
Do you see yourself always being a fan of Supreme?
Yes. Supreme has made many iconic pieces that I believe will stand the test of time. I think that I will always appreciate and own many of these pieces. I might not always be as big of a Supreme fan as I am today, but I will always have some of their best pieces in my wardrobe.
What products have eluded you that you still want to get your hands on?
I’ve wanted to get my hands on one of the original Afro Skater tees for a while. This was one of the four original tees that Supreme released in 1994. I’ve only ever seen one for sale, and couldn’t justify the $3000 price tag.
If and when you finally get your hands on the pinball machine, what's next for you?
Once I get my hands on the pinball machine (it’s happening), I am going to give it away to one of my followers. At the beginning of my trading challenge, I promised to giveaway whatever item I ended with. @Supreme_Leaks_News will be hosting this giveaway with me, so follow along with both of us to stay up-to-date and make sure you don’t miss out on a chance to win.
For more Supreme content, check out this insane skate deck collection.