The effect of losing an heirloom or long sought after piece can be devastating.
Where I live, there has been a rash of burglaries and items taken that included collectibles as well as the usual TV, stereo, etc. The folks responsible for these burglaries are largely stealing to support a drug habit, but whatever they take still impacts the victim.
Since I have a modest collection of clocks, coins, and militaria, as well as those items that are only valuable for the sentimental value to my wife and me, I started wondering what I needed to do to safeguard my goods.
I ran across an article in Heritage Magazine for the Intelligent Collector (September 2014) which dealt with this exact thing. Early on the author (Danielle Arnet) quoted an expert as saying “When you’re at the point of wondering about if you need to protect something, you need to do it.” The question for me was what is the nature of that “protection”.
Many things other than theft can happen to our collections: fire, mold, improper storage, restoration, or display, even someone contesting ownership, just to name a few.
Obviously, there are insurance policies that cover fine arts and collectibles. The article names Fireman’s Fund, Travelers, Geico, and AIG. Also noted was American Collectors which normally covers collections in the $25,000 to $50,000 range. Whatever insurance you choose, remember that if you travel with your valuables or exhibit them at shows, you want the shipping/transportation covered as well.
Given the particulars of any collection being insured, it is possible that an appraisal will be required; certainly photos and descriptions will be required. Please note that almost all standard home owners insurance policies exclude damage from floods and flooding, so if you are subject to flooding or live in a hurricane/tornado zone, you will need additional specialized protection for you collection.
Having dealt with insurance in case of disaster in its various forms, what else can one do to minimize risk?
The first thing I would recommend would be to be careful who you tell about your collection. Word gets around fast, and you never know who might be taking advantage of that information.
Second would be to have decent dead bolt locks and an alarm system installed at your home. There are additional things available like coatings for your windows and glass that are resistant to breaking.
You might consider a safe deposit box or a safe in your home to secure valuables while you are away. If you need a safe at your home, have it installed by a professional and do not get the combination that is a keypad. The reason for that is that most people will not clean the keypad regularly and the oil from one’s fingers leaves a pattern on the keys that is easily revealed by a dusting of talc or baby powder. If you decide on a safe, make sure its fireproof rating is two hours or more, it is water proof, is humidity controlled, and is secured to the floor or wall with bolts that are difficult to remove.
A word of caution about safes – after a fire do not open them until they are thoroughly cooled or upon opening them the oxygen in the air will meet the heat inside and ignite everything flammable inside the safe.
We have all read of stolen paintings, accidents that destroyed priceless works of art, paintings being returned the families of previous owners, appraisals that later proved to be incorrect, etc. Consult an expert in this area and take the steps to prevent such a loss from happening to you.
The effect of losing and heirloom or long sought after piece, can be devastating to you and to your family. I know that for me and my family, the majority of the most valuable things I own are the least expensive things I own, and we would be heartbroken to lose them, no matter what remuneration we received for their loss.