It’s been said many times that some of the best ideas/inventions are solutions to the very questions/challenges the inventors themselves face. It’s with that spirit of initiative that Mark Lurie developed Lofty, after discovering what he saw as a gap in the online antiques marketplace while assisting a friend seeking to sell some antique items.
In light of this experience, Lurie called on his education, interests and experience to develop Lofty, an online marketplace which encompasses the “lofty” ideals and passion of the fine antiques and collectibles market. We chatted with Lurie ahead of Lofty’s Feb. 25 online auction to learn more.
Antique Trader: What is Lofty and what services does your company provide? When did you officially launch the site? How is your site different from other similar online antiques and collectibles sites?
Mark Lurie: Lofty is a trusted online marketplace for valuable fine art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles. On Lofty, anyone can buy and sell fine items with confidence and ease, authenticity guaranteed. Lofty was founded in 2012 and launched in June 2013.
Our Network of Experts evaluates and catalogs every item on Lofty.com. Sellers simply email or upload photos, and if the item meets our $500 value threshold, we will provide a free, no obligation evaluation for potential sale on Lofty. Buyers can purchase online instantly knowing that Lofty guarantees satisfaction and authenticity. We also provide hassle-free white glove shipping as well as privacy and anonymity to buyers and sellers. Owners keep their items until they sell, at which point Lofty arranges for a courier or shipper experienced in handling high value items to go to the seller’s home and pack the items based on Lofty’s instructions. Or, the client can work with Lofty to find a local shipper.
Unlike other sites, anyone can buy and sell on Lofty. Most other sites only let professional dealers sell. Plus, the company has a referral program where clients can earn a commission for items sold by people they’ve introduced to Lofty.
AT: In terms of the evaluations, you mention on your site that a network of experts reviews them. Can you tell us more about the experts on staff?
ML: Our network of experts includes qualified appraisers, current and former auction house specialists and experienced dealers across categories. Among others, they include Sarah Shinn Pratt (former VP of Appraisals at Sothebys and former “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser), Clinton Howell (private dealer and president of the Art and Antiques Dealers League of America), Peter Curran (private dealer and former “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser) and Robert Klein (owner of Robert Klein Gallery, former “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser and former president of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers).
The opportunity to be part of a business that creates a trusted marketplace for fine and decorative art and collectibles in a unique and truly useful way is what appealed to, and still excites Sarah Shinn Pratt, who is a director with Lofty.
“We give sellers an online venue to offer their items properly described and valued
realistically for an active market. Our group of experienced appraisers advise the seller as to what they have and how much would be a fair market value, thereby also giving buyers some peace of mind when purchasing in our virtual (online) marketplace,” Shinn Pratt said. “Having worked in the trenches of brick-and-mortar auction houses for decades, I especially appreciate how selling through Lofty helps avoid excessive handling and damage to one’s property, allowing the current owner to hang on to and enjoy their object until it is sold.
AT: Can you explain the consignment process at Lofty? What are the criteria for items you’ll accept for sale on the site? What fees are associated with consigning an item with your company? Do people have to send their items somewhere when they consign? What is the buyer’s premium percentage?
ML: We created Lofty because buying and selling items between $500 and $50,000 is really difficult! Lofty solves this problem by being 100 percent transparent and taking care of all the hassle.
To consign on Lofty, simply take several smartphone photos of your item and email or upload them to Lofty.com. We provide a free, no-obligation evaluation for items above our $500 minimum value threshold. You can then place your item on sale in one click. You can remain anonymous and you keep your item until it sells, after which we will coordinate white glove pickup, packing and shipping. Lofty charges a low, 10 percent seller’s commission, with no other hidden fees. Lofty charges a 15 percent buyer’s premium.
AT: We know you have an online auction scheduled for Feb. 25. Do you have a theme for the auction or is it more of a discovery type of auction? Also, do you have a schedule of upcoming auctions after that, and when would you start accepting consignments for the next event?
ML: Lofty offers consignors a fixed-price option and an auction option, depending on their desires. Our Feb. 25 auction includes a fantastic array of items across categories, all from private collectors across the country. Here are some highlights!
Lofty’s February 25 Finds Auction of Fine and Decorative Art highlights include:
• An American Jack in the Pulpit Form Large Art Glass Vase, Quezal, circa 1900, signed, the gold face with body consisting of green, gold, and white feathering (presale estimate $6,000/$7,000, Lot 200).
• Two Chinese Lady’s Bangles made of carved White Nephrite Jade dating from the late Qing Dynasty, circa 1875-1900 (presale $750/$1,000, Lots 406 and 407).
• Sonderjylland, a polychrome painted Royal Copenhagen figural group from the Danish National Costume Series, designed by Carl Martin-Hansen circa 1909-1925, depicting three figures dressed in folk costumes (presale $2,500/$3,500, Lot 205).
• A Paul Stankard (American, b. 1943) Glass Bouquet Orb Paperweight, signed internally, containing an elaborate bouquet of flowers and bees (presale $1,500/$3,000, Lot 201).
• An 18-karat Yellow Gold and Rhodochrosite Pendant made by Buccellati, mid-20th century, the back with a bird-faced man playing a mandolin (presale $3,000/$4,000, Lot 314).
• The Guy Dill (American, b. 1946) sculpture “First Global Bronze Angel,” circa 2000, composed of six welded geometric shapes in painted, lacquered and waxed silicon bronze (presale $10,000/$12,000, Lot 123).
AT: What inspired the development of Lofty?
ML: I created Lofty because buying and selling items is really difficult for people! I experienced this difficulty first-hand while helping a friend sell some inherited items, and since I’m a history buff I was excited to solve it. Lofty solves this problem by being 100 percent transparent and taking care of all the hassle. In the future, our vision is for there to be three major marketplaces for items of value: eBay at the low end, Lofty for items between $500 and $50,000 and Sothebys/Christies at the highest end.
AT: What is your background?
ML: I grew up in New England a walk away from Walden Pond, developing an early interest in American history. In particular, I’m a fan of early American transcendentalist poets including Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman. I collect antique copies of their books whenever I come across them in the New England area!
My professional experience is in Internet technology and business. Previously, I worked at Bessemer Venture Partners investing in ecommerce and Internet startups. Before that, I cofounded Abroad101.com, which is the leading software and review website in the international education industry. I have an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Harvard College. I’m an enthusiastic outdoorsman!
For more information and to participate in the Feb. 25 auction, visit www.lofty.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.