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Insurance for special collections

When it comes to insuring special treasures, most people can make do with a rider on their home insurance policies. Depending on the valuables involved, they might be able to get the insurance coverage they need without hiring an appraiser. The best reason to hire an appraiser is to get objective documentation about the value of the items you're insuring. Possessions such as stamp collections, coin collections, antiques, wine collections and fine art are all good candidates for appraisal.

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Questions to ask a potential appraiser

  • Are you accredited by a professional appraisal society? (Three such societies are the Appraisers Association of America, the American Society of Appraisers, and the International Society of Appraisers)

  • How long have you been in the profession?

  • How would you describe your code of ethics?

  • Do you have a particular field of expertise?

  • Have you taken any tests in order to get your accreditation?

American Society of Appraisers
The ASA prides itself on the high ethical standards it requires of its members. Read about them and search for an appraiser on the society’s web site.

Appraisers generally operate under a strict code of ethics. Seek out an appraiser who specializes in the kind of valuables you own. The American Society of Appraisers, for example, lists appraisers according to their specialties.

“Each accredited member of the American Society of Appraisers has earned a professional designation in one or more specialized areas of appraisal,” says the society’s executive vice president, Edwin Baker. “To receive the accreditation, the appraiser must pass intensive written examinations, submit representative appraisal reports for peer review and be screened for his or her ethical behavior.”

It's important to keep documentation of your appraisal in a separate location, so that you'll be able to substantiate any loss.

Discuss with your appraiser the methods used to determine the value of your items, to make sure the appraisal meets your insurance needs. “Often the distinction between cost and value is lost in the appraisal of personal property,” says Harris Samuels, a senior accredited appraiser in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  “Value is a measure of the future utility of property. Cost is the monetary equivalent of that property for the purposes of an exchange. Sometimes the two terms are numerically equal, more often they are not.”

Know your policy

Specialists in coverage for finer items

 

American Collectors Insurance
American Collectors offers inexpensive, Agreed Value coverage for all collections in your home. This company provides coverage in all states except Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Wyoming. Online applications are available.

AXA Nordstern Art Insurance
The company insures valuable art and objects. 

Chubb Valuable Articles Insurance for Individuals
Chubb is one of the leaders in insuring valuables and collectibles.

Fine Arts Risk Management
Specializes in fine arts policies for private collectors, galleries and museums.

Watch out for exclusions in your fine art or collectibles policy. For example, an exclusion called "inherent vice" won't pay for some art objects that will, by their very nature, deteriorate — old canvases, for instance. Other exclusions might include damage to stamp or coin collections caused by fading, scratching, or staining.

The American Numismatic Association offers this advice for coin collectors, who wonder how they should insure their valuable coins: “Note that most homeowner insurance policies specifically exclude coins and other numismatic items from coverage. A rider can be obtained for an additional premium, or a separate policy can be obtained.”  The ANA also urges its members to “Maintain records about your collection and store a copy separately from the coins.” 

Once you've amassed a valuable enough collection, it's likely the insurance agencies that specialize in insuring them will be seeking your business.

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