Written by Ruth Graham, this article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on February 27, 2014.
“When it comes to buying high-end antiques online, the porcelain elephant in the room is 1stdibs: Founded in 2001 by former real-estate agent Michael Bruno, it dominates the world of online antiques sales, and has branched out into fine jewelry, vintage fashion and even real estate. The site draws 2 million unique visitors a month and sold $1 billion worth of goods last year. About 70% of its massive inventory consists of furniture.
Any new entrant into the game of selling decorative arts and furniture online has a tough opponent to face. Say hello to TheHighBoy.com, which soft-launched on Feb. 1. The site’s ambitious mission: To refurbish the antiques industry, making it more accessible to potential new consumers, and easier for dealers to reach them.
The HighBoy brings together established dealers who offer a wide variety of curated goods, from an apple-shaped tea caddy ($675) to an exquisite 18th-century grandfather clock ($21,750), along with fine art. The site’s look is clean and stylish, more like a fashion site than a museum homepage; its founders drew inspiration from the straight-from-the-runway fashion hub Moda Operandi and the art-sharing forum ArtStack. Photography is consistently attractive and detailed, a failing of some similar sites. And the layout is intuitive to maneuver, allowing searches by style, period, origin and the like. Prices—including shipping costs—are visible to anyone who sets up an account, which is free….