For years, online customers of fine art, antiques and collectibles have had to take a fingers-crossed, hope-for-the-best attitude when they clicked the BUY button, only half-trusting that what they paid for was the real McCoy and genuinely worth the price.
Now, there's LOFTY, the brainchild of Mark Lurie, a 28-year-old Harvard Business School graduate whose innovation sprang from his personal dissatisfaction with buying and selling online. Into the bustling and often confusing online marketplace for antiques and fine art, LOFTY has—at last—brought transparency to what was previously an iffy process. Thanks to this new start-up, buyers and sellers finally have a website where every item has been reviewed and valued by distinguished appraisers, together representing decades of expertise.
Says Lurie, “While helping a friend sell some original art prints and 19th-century silver, I experienced how difficult it was to obtain accurate information about valuable pieces and to connect with collectors who appreciated their worth.”
The experience inspired Lurie. “I've always loved learning about the history of art and antiques at museums,” says Lurie. “I thought, 'Why can't items for sale online have similar trustworthy, curatorial descriptions?'” Drawing on his experience founding the largest online review and software company in the international education industry, and backed by savvy group of venture capitalists, including Brook Hazelton, of St. James Partners and former CEO of Phillips Auction House, Lurie launched LOFTY in June, 2013. “Our approach was relatively simple,” he explains. “We created a website that combines the practicality and accessibility of eBay with the scholarship and excellence of major auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.”
LOFTY removes the guesswork that bewilders buyers and sellers of antiques, jewelry and fine art online. Both buyers and sellers benefit from the guidance of a reputable network of qualified appraisers, former auction house specialists, dealers, and art world professionals who provide transparent evaluations of an item’s history and its fair value. These professionals also provide a prized intangible long missing from the online marketplace: peace of mind.
One of them is Clinton Howell, proprietor of New York City’s Clinton Howell Antiques and president of the Art and Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA). Says Howell: ”Mark Lurie has created what the world of antiques and fine art has long needed: a marketplace where expertise plays the dominant role. Without a doubt, an accurate assessment of an item is the single greatest necessity for people planning to buy in every category.” On LOFTY, those categories include fine art, furniture and décor, ceramics, glass, silver, jewelry, watches, collectibles and more—and there is a ever-changing roster of them, priced from about $500 to $50,000.
In contrast to most online websites that simply facilitate exchanges between dealers and buyers, with no assurance that items are bona fide and worth the cost, LOFTY provides buyers with two guarantees: 1) a 100-percent Money-Back Satisfaction Guarantee ensuring that any item can be returned within seven days of delivery; and 2) a five-year Authenticity Guarantee certifying that if any item is discovered to have been misrepresented, LOFTY will refund 100 percent of the purchase price. Behind these guarantees stand the reputations of LOFTY and its network of experienced experts
LOFTY provides an equally exciting service to sellers. Who doesn't have some great rarity that they inherited from Grandmother but never use? Simply go to LOFTY's website (www.lofty.com) and upload photos for a free evaluation by LOFTY’s experts. If the item is a good fit for LOFTY, the seller can decide to sell in just one click. LOFTY takes care of the rest, including shipping, insurance and payment.
According to LOFTY Director Sarah Shinn Pratt, who ran Sotheby’s Appraisals for North America, LOFTY is 100% transparent about commissions. “We charge 10% to sellers and 15% for buyers. This is much lower than most dealers or auction houses. Because of our diverse and growing group of experts, our valuations cover a wide spectrum of objects.”
On LOFTY, notable sales are already crackling, including a rare Franz Arthur Bischoff Limoges porcelain charger, 1906 which sold for $7,000 and an exquisite late 19th century Continental Gothic style jeweled chalice, encrusted with garnets, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds which brought $5,000 to the seller. Among other items currently on offer are a unique blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly, priced at $200,000 and a trio of whimsical sculptures by Tom Otterness priced at $28,000.
Mark Lurie sums us his new website this way: “My goal with LOFTY was to create a useful and reliable place where collectors can go to find and fulfill their collecting aspirations. I also wanted to help people around the country discover the history and value of the items in their lofts, attics and basements. Finally, I had the lofty goal of bringing meaningful transparency to the fine art, antiques and collectibles market. From the success of LOFTY so far, I can already tell it's just what the online market has been waiting for.”
For more information visit: www.lofty.com.