DETROIT — Standing among more than 350 pairs of sneakers in his converted attic, Josh Luber, a self-proclaimed “sneakerhead,” held a pair of nearly identical Nike Air Jordan IVs in each hand. He eyed them as if they were rare biological specimens.
One was a standard model of the shoe that typically sells on secondary markets for $160; the other was an ultrarare model designed by the rapper Eminem that can fetch more than $20,000.
“This is the sneaker industry right here,” he said, referring to how brands use scarcity and buzz to drive up prices in secondary markets and create brand cachet.
That price volatility helped inspire Mr. Luber to found StockX, an e-commerce platform for luxury goods. The familiar model of buying and selling high-end shoes “leads to chaos,” Mr. Luber argued. When limited-edition sneakers are released, people camp in line for days to get their hands on a pair, and the opportunity to make a quick profit can lead some to bribe store workers. It can even turn to violence: In 2015, a Brooklyn teenager was shot in his foot for cutting in line.
So Mr. Luber, the company’s chief executive, and his co-founders, including Dan Gilbert, the billionaire founder of Quicken Loans, came up with what they believe to be an elegant solution to determine the value of high-end goods: Treat them as if they were stocks.
On StockX, products, which include streetwear, handbags and watches in addition to sneakers, are assigned ticker symbols. Sellers put out asking prices, and buyers bid. Users can see data like recent sale figures from across the internet, price volatility, and 52-week highs and lows. Once a bid and an ask coincide, the sale is automatically made.
Niche marketplaces for high-end goods are not new: Before sneakerheads connected on the internet, there were consignment shops reselling