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Insuring your valuables

Read the Spanish version: Como asegurar tus objetos de valor

If you own items that could catch the eye of appraisers on Antiques Roadshow, make sure you have the proper insurance to protect them.

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Additional insurance coverage for antiques and items such as furs, jewelry, collectibles, wine and fine art is a good idea. A standard home insurance policy, which covers your personal property, has limits on how much it will pay for certain items.

To protect more expensive valuables, you’ll probably have to buy additional coverage in the form of a rider.

Your standard home insurance policy defines the maximum amount of money you would receive for specific items. For example, a standard policy pays out up to $1,500 for jewelry, furs, electronic apparatus and accessories and up to $2,500 for firearms and silverware. These limits vary by insurance company.

“Make sure you understand what's covered and what the limits are,” advises insurance specialist David Colmans, executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. “Keep an inventory of your belongings. Include what the item is, when you bought it and how much you paid for it. If there are serial numbers, write those down, too. This list should be kept in a fireproof box at home or at a bank.”

Decide what you need

If you decide that your standard home insurance policy isn't enough, you'll need to look at blanket coverage and item specific riders. Individual riders can be purchased for an item like a wedding ring, expensive painting, etc. Blanket coverage can be purchased to cover an entire category of items that generally include jewelry, fine art, silverware, cameras, musical instruments, furs, wine, stamps, coins and collectibles. But blanket coverage typically has per-item limits — usually $2,500. Provided no one piece of your collection is worth more than that, blanket coverage might be the way to go.

If you want to insure something valued at more than $50,000, you should have an appraiser document its value. If the insurance company has documentation proving the value of your item, you'll avoid having to haggle with a claims adjuster in the event of a loss. In this case, you can purchase an endorsement. For example, Travelers Insurance offers a "personal articles floater" to protect items whose values exceed the $50,000 limit.

Protecting your treasures

Be sure to tell your agent about any particularly valuable items you want to insure.

Keep documentation of your valuables' worth in a separate location: a safety deposit box, your lawyer's office, or at the house of a relative.

Make sure you understand the limits and exclusions of your policy or rider.

For particularly valuable items, or for collections or antiques whose value can be questioned, consider hiring an appraiser. Make sure the appraiser has an impeccable reputation.

If you want to separately list items that fall below the $50,000 threshold, simply describe them and estimate their worth. Some insurers might require a receipt or appraisal for certain items — even if they are worth less than $50,000.

Regardless of how you decide to insure your treasures, make sure you know when a policy will not pay out (look for "exclusions"). In general, you're covered for most losses resulting from just about any peril — except nuclear explosion, war or intentional acts of destruction.

If you're the owner of rare coins, the American Numismatic Association (ANA) warns: “Unfortunately, many homeowners' policies provide very little coverage for coins” and "when insurance companies willingly add coins to a policy, they often require that each piece be listed with a fixed value and could charge exorbitant premiums for coverage." ANA members have access to competitively priced insurance plans designed for coin collecting.  

No matter what the insured item, you may want to review its value regularly. Some items may increase in value over time and you may want more coverage. Others could decrease and you could find yourself overinsured.

Most standard home insurance policies will not pay to replace what some insurance companies call "items of antiquity." In some cases, that means anything more than 25 years old, but the definition can vary depending on your home insurer. That's a reason to take out a special rider on any antiques you own.

“Find out if you're paying for replacement or actual cash value coverage,” Colmans adds. “For example, if a five-year old television is destroyed and you have replacement coverage, the insurance company will replace the set. But if you have actual cash value coverage, the company will depreciate the item, and you may only get pennies on the dollar.”

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