Antique Trader Inbox: When to insure? How to decide

What a person possessed, or didn’t possess, always did – and still does – represent their place within a society. At one time it might have had implications about what you could do with your life, and where you could go. Fortunately for us, we live in the 21st century in the U.S. All your collection does is satisfy an individual need and broadcast – depending on what you collect, and at what level – your good taste, or lack thereof, to the world at large.

And, when I mentioned that lack of taste before? I wasn’t talking about what you collect… It’s a well-known fact that you have fantastic taste…
In this day and age, when everything seemingly has a value, it’s a must to make sure your collection is safe. Its loss may not mean societal downfall, but it could well mean financial downfall if anything is lost, stolen or broken, especially when the collection represents thousands and thousands of dollars and years of effort.

Here’s what we asked last week: At what point is your antiques collection officially worth insuring? How, exactly, do you decide?

If you want to participate in the online dialogue, go online to and register for our weekly e-newsletter, or logon to, look for The Question of the Week, and post your answer there. You can also send answers to


This is a great question and one that probably has as many answers as there are collections.

Two things would be my guiding concerns: having something extremely valuable and having the money to afford the extra insurance.

There are some things I should probably insure but don’t have the money at this time to do it.

Tom Stillman

Hi Noah:

As an appraiser of antiques and residential contents, I receive calls on a daily basis that ask me the same question you pose to the AT readers. It really boils down to a few decisions that need to be made.

The first question is, what would it cost to repair, replace or to make whole again? The party then usually mentions that it was inherited from favorite Aunt Tillie and she received it as a wedding gift from her great-grandfather in 1906. The sentimental aspect has no value for purposes of insuring. You cannot establish a sentimental value in dollars. The insurance company does not care about the personal attachment. The item does, however, have a market value that can be established. This value, supported by an appraisal report, is what the underwriter will care about… What will it cost them to fix or replace?

Secondly, the policy must be examined to see if the household content portion would adequately cover the item(s) without a special rider. If you seek to insure a 10-piece dining set from the 1920s and the value is around $2,000, it may be covered with your ordinary contents. (Think about what any dining set from a furniture store would cost new from a quality retailer.) However, one must examine the potential risk the set has against all perils. This could include a cigarette burn, water damage, broken chair leg and so on. These antiques and fine arts riders are usually inexpensive additions to existing policies and do not generally have a deductible. The cost of the rider would depend on the established replacement value.

All persons considering the concern to insure collections need to examine not only value, but also the exposure to perceived risks. The items in question require discussion with the insurance agent, specifics to the policy and how the items would be addressed if damaged, destroyed or stolen.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Question of the Week. I look forward to the many AT articles and interactive aspects of the publication.

Terry Sonntag, Accredited Appraiser
International Society of Appraisers
Santa Clarita, Calif.


Editor’s Note: Not to worry, the readers’ responses to our question of eBay’s continuing relevance two weeks ago continues to generate responses, and will probably do so for quite a while. Here’s a few more that are new, and some more that we didn’t have room to run last week.


If there was ever a time that was ripe for competition, the time is now. I was at a show in York and then Renninger’s and all I heard was (complaining) about eBay.

If Antique Trader ever thought about an auction site, now would be the time. You could require people to be subscribers to list. The listings could be free for X-number of items. You could allow reserve fees for free, and only charge if the item sold. I would move to it.

The other option would be like Craigslist, but for antiques and nationwide.
In the beginning of eBay, people put items up because they had no idea what the value was. I think that is not the case now. There are people that just want to sell their item and know what they want for it.

I have several items I would like to sell on the Net if I could display pictures. However, on eBay I get to put it up and have to pay an outrageous reserve fee that is no longer refundable if the item sells.

I also think this is the time where antique shows might be able to make a comeback.

Howard Saidman


Yes, of course, (eBay) will remain a gigantic force. There is simply no question here.

Lucy Robinson


As an eBay seller and buyer since 1998, and with more than 1,650 100 percent positive feedbacks, I am very sad to watch eBay lose sight of what made it eBay!

Over the last 10 years I have watched eBay make many positive changes. However in the last two years, the changes seem to be totally oriented towards the corporation, not the customer. They are determined to force every user to have a PayPal account. They experimented with a “new Search” that obviously won’t work. They received thousands of complaints about the “new search,” which they ignored and continued to experiment with.

When I emailed them about it, they basically denied there were any problems. There is a problem with a search that brings far less items, many items that are unrelated to your search and splits the screen with items from eBay stores.

Hmmm… Let’s see… PayPal and eBay stores? Could this be a pocketbook issue for eBay? EBay became what it was by creating a site where one could buy and sell items. An eBay with a poor result search system is useless to buyers and sellers alike. It does not matter what the listing fees are if buyers can’t find your item.

If I can’t leave negative feedback for a deadbeat buyer then how do we identify deadbeats? If you look at the eBay discussion forums there are thousands of complaints about the search experiments, deadbeats, PayPal system failures, etc. It seems to me the “reduction in fees” program is a small band-aid.

Fees are not the problems but, rather, change for change’s sake and for eBay’s pocketbook, are. I really think eBay just needs to get back to the basics of providing a forum for their customers to do business. These are dark days for eBay, to bring back the light they need to look back to what they were. The new CEO should try to remember: failure to listen to your customers, leads to failure.

Ken Heuermann
Sheridan, Wyo.

Hi Noah:

My hobby is dashing around to tag and estate sales and flea markets, looking for the overlooked bargain. I’ve played around with selling on eBay for nearly 10 years, mostly antiques and collectibles of all sorts, primarily as a deal with my long-suffering minimalist wife.

I think it’s all wonderful stuff, but even I have to admit that she’s right – I can’t keep it all. Until the last few years, eBay was a great venue for selling low to mid-range antiques and collectibles, those things worth from $25 to a few hundred dollars. For the truly rare item, it offers an unprecedented exposure to bidders around the world. It seems to me that those high-end items continue to bring fine prices because the people who can afford them will always do very well.

It’s the middle-class buyer, who used to try to fill out grandma’s china set or buy the piece he remembers fondly from his childhood, who has disappeared from the bidding because he or she is more worried about being able to buy fuel oil and gasoline and pay property taxes than about buying something not really needed.

If there is once again a thriving instead of a struggling middle class, eBay will prosper as well. It’s that kind of marketplace.

Mike Lally


The marketplace is ripe for a decent site to sell for the sporadic seller. I am now looking for an alternative site. Craigslist is one.

Bob Hay


Enjoyed seeing the short note on eBay.

It and you are mentioning its new lower listing fees, but let’s look at the whole picture. Seems to me eBay is going for the throat. A 66.666 percent increase – or is that just 2/3 on the final fee? – seems huge to me, and unmentioned in all of the articles.

It’s been interesting to read all the press, but there’s never any mention of the final cost if you are lucky enough to sell your item.

Terry Hoeman


Lower listing fees? So eBay has lowered its listing fees by 5? per listing. It also “adjusted” (its word) its Final Value Fees, up by 61 percent.

EBay, please don’t spit on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

Michael McMorrow


Reducing listing fees and raising Final Value Fees doesn’t equate to a benefit. Not being able to leave negative feedback for buyers doesn’t either. There are several calculators out there that demonstrate that the so-called reduction actually results in quite a hefty increase in fees. For instance, the Final Value Fees for eBay store sales have been raised to a whopping 12 percent.

Arlene Chemnitz


I have been a registered eBay user for nearly 10 years. While my selling has been fairly limited, I planned to increase it in the coming years when I retire. My area is mostly antique toys in the $75 to $800 range (at a few dozen per year, a very small dealer in eBay terms). So I look at every strategic and revenue adjustment at eBay from that perspective.

I don’t really think that the site thinks of me as a member of one of its most important revenue categories. If that turns out to be increasingly true, then I may go over to listing quantities of items with traditional auctioneers (some of whom also use eBay or some other Internet auctioneer anyway) to appeal to a wider range of buyers. It all comes down to dollars. If it’s a wash, who needs the hassle of packing, shipping and the occasional non-payer? The decision will be an easy one.

Frank Madsen


Editor’s Note: The dawning of antiques awareness question, posed a few weeks back, led Ron Knappen to write us the following, which shows that some of us are just born with collecting in our blood:

Hi Noah:

When I was around five, in 1940, my parents left me in their car while grocery shopping. When they returned, I was gone. They soon located me in the back row of a neighboring used-car lot sitting behind the steering wheel of a 1934 Roadster.

We rented a furnished home on Nebraska Street on the East Bluff in Peoria, which had been in the 1893 World’s Fair. The furniture also had been in the house at the Fair. I recall the fireplace and still have two of the chairs.

We moved to Morton in 1942. The dump was about one block away. I became friends with one of the hermits who lived in the dump and drug home numerous old ornate picture frames, clocks, kerosene lamps and other antiques that caught my eye. My parents would throw these out when they thought I wasn’t looking.

After an auction, I would haul things home that didn’t get a bid. In around 1943, my brother bought me a Burlington pottery piggy bank. It had a number of Indian-head pennies in it.

When I was in the second grade, I observed numerous pieces of Morton pottery thrown into the dump. Also, when I was in the second grade, I was fascinated with the huge sailing ship model on the mantel in Stumpf’s Drug Store.

While in the third or fourth grade, I became aware of a fairly large quantity of old crank wooden large telephones in a neighbor’s storage shed. They were from Carl Magnuson who owned Peoria Electric. Carl offered them to me for $3 each. Not long afterwards, the shed was torn down. I know not the fate of these old telephones.

In 1945 and 1946 when I was 10 and 11, I enjoyed many evenings observing the decorated old Fords that veterans had acquired and would meet at Hicks gas station. Now and then they would take off down Route 150 with their dual pipes cackling vibrantly. Those were exciting times!

When I was 13, my mother prevented me from buying uncle Roy’s 1940 Lincoln V-12 with OD for $50. At 14, however, dad allowed me to buy a 1930 Durant Coupe for $15.

Ron Knappen


Editor’s Note: They keep coming…


Reading the mail about the future of the antique trade and also regarding the appraisal shows was very enlightening.

I thought it was only here in the Midwest (Iowa) that things were slow, so I was actually relieved to see it was also nationwide. The letter about the $10,000 corner cupboard vs. the Pier One cupboard really hit home. However, I am trying to find a traditional sofa to tie in with my antiques and, quite frankly, am finding a lot of junk out there I wouldn’t spend $500 for.

Also read with interest about the appraisal shows. WGBH (in Boston) tells you when you contact them about getting tickets that they only put the high-end, one-of-a-kind, best of the best, on the shows. I do watch it every week, more for entertainment than anything. If folks want more realistic pricing, I have every book your company has put out and find them very good sources. So, for the time being, I am sitting on a houseful of family items, some going back to the 1800s. Will wait out this bad selling period… It always gets better.

Happy editing, keep up the good work.

Barb Metzger