Destruction & Theft: Protecting antiques from disaster

Arthur Murray

What antiques do you have? Books, jewelry, furniture, something else? Regardless of what you have, protecting antiques should rank high on your priority list: You need to make sure your antiques and collectibles are protected from burglary or damage from storms.

It can happen. One Long Island resident lost 786 vintage children’s records last October when Superstorm Sandy flooded his garage with 20 inches of water. Mud and dirt on the records and their jackets destroyed much of their value to collectors, wiping out years of effort and tons of cash putting together the collection.

Nothing can replace the records, of course, but what about the financial commitment? What can a collector do to protect himself or herself financially in case a collection is damaged or stolen?

Assess what you have

Think about your antiques and put together a quick estimate of their value. Once you have a number in mind, consult your homeowner’s insurance policy. Standard homeowners policies typically include contents coverage, which offers protection for your possessions.

Antiques fall into this category, of course, but there could be a catch. Contents coverage typically has a limit for high-value items such as jewelry, furs, and collectibles. That limit can be as little as $200 and usually is never more than $5,000. If you don’t believe your policy will give you enough protection for your antiques, you have two main coverage options.

Schedule an endorsement

The first option is to schedule an endorsement on your existing home insurance policy. It will increase the coverage limit to a level that will comfortably cover your antiques. This has two primary advantages. It likely will cost less than other ways of covering the items, and you will continue your relationship with your existing home insurance provider.

Having all your coverage under one policy could simplify paying your premiums and the claims process should something happen.

Buy a personal articles floater

The other option is to buy a personal articles floater, a separate policy normally purchased from a company that specializes in the items being covered – in this case, antiques. That expertise could be valuable in making sure you have the right coverage, and specialists could offer advice on protecting your antiques.

How to proceed

Regardless of which path you take, your first step should be to have a professional appraisal of your antiques or collectibles. For one thing, it will give you a precise idea of the amount of coverage you should purchase, and the provider likely will request it anyway.

The second thing the appraisal can do is form the basis of a home inventory – something you should have on hand anyway. A home appraisal is a listing of your possession, complete with photos and receipts when available. It will help document what you have should your home be damaged or destroyed by a covered peril.

You should keep several copies of the inventory, including an electronic copy, and store at least one copy off site. Having an inventory won’t help if it falls victim to the same disaster that damaged or destroyed your home. And you must update it every time you buy another antique.

Nothing will ever really replace antiques that are damaged or destroyed in a covered claim. But at least you’ll have the financial wherewithal to begin collecting new items. Take time now to get the proper coverage for your antiques to make sure you can enjoy them now and in the future.

Arthur Murray is a contributor to the HomeInsurance.com blog. HomeInsurance.com serves as a resource center for insurance consumers and homebuyers across the country. HomeInsurance.com provides exclusive dwelling coverage calculators, a Rates In Your State interactive map, and FAQs answered by insurance experts.

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