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The brainchild of New York Baroque picture specialist Sheldon Fish, the site aims to act as a mediator between well-established dealers looking to source top quality items and sellers who might otherwise have chosen to sell at auction.

The attractions of the site for vendors, for whom there are no charges at all, of not having to pay auction commissions, and for buyers who only pay their one-off annual fee and no further commissions on transactions, are obvious.

Like Circline before them, focus on the top end of the trade and are not bothered by actually completing deals online, so they do not get caught up with many of the issues that have cost other Web ventures dear. “We hook up the buyer with the seller. If the merchandise is right it will be worth the effort [to travel].

There are no time constraints and no having to rely upon a digital image,” said Fish, adding that several major transactions had already been negotiated.

In the few months that the site has been live Fish (and a quartet of high-profile directors) has signed up around 100 of the biggest names in the trade – from folk art dealer David Wheatcroft to Georg Jensen specialists The Silver Fund – who have listed their ‘Urgently Wanted’ items on the site. At the same time, potential vendors are provided with a list of potential buyers, so dealers are having their details promoted directly to potentially lucrative sources.

Fish hopes to have 1500 dealers signed up as buyers on the site within the next two years. If the one-off annual fee structure remains – and especially at or close to the current level – it will be worth the risk for many dealers to sign up. But Fish will only keep them if they make successful purchases.

To that end the company is working closely with estate attorneys, appraisers and bank trusts and has recently formed an alliance with the New York and London-based art consultancy and appraisal firm Masterson-Gurr Johns who have agreed, when appropriate, to broker items directly to members on the site.

What cannot be predicted yet is what will be the optimum size for the site’s user membership. Too large and there may be too many potential buyers vying for the increasingly hard to source top-end pieces, with fewer buyers making successful purchases at competitive rates; too small, and the annual fees may not be enough to run the site and turn a profit.