Don’t let a valuable collection go up in smoke: Talk to your agent about insurance

Comic book big explosionAre you a collector? If you’ve amassed a significant collection, you may want to have its value appraised and consider adding specialty coverage or an endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy. Whether your collection is fine antiques, stamps, musical instruments, vintage costume jewelry or comic books, it can amass in value. You should talk over your collection with your insurance agent and see if it makes sense to protect your investment.

Take comic books. Vintage comics that were bought for mere pennies in the last century are now valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A few prized comic editions have even reached into the millions at auctions.

This PropertyCasualty360 video is a case in point. Shawn Moynihan interviews Vincent Zurzolo, COO and co-founder of Metropolis Collectibles, a large and respected rare comic book dealer. It’s interesting from several perspectives: as a business case study of a fascinating niche business, as a discussion of commercial risk management, and also in the lessons it offers to personal hobbyists and collectors about protecting investments.

Zurzola shares interesting information about Metropolis Collectibles’ huge comics collection and the risk management steps they take for protection. He also has a few words for personal collectors. He says that just the way you protect the investment in your home or car by having insurance, you should protect your valuable collections too. He says, “… collectors feel like they are insured through their homeowners insurance policies sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not and finding out when its too too late is a tragedy.” He shares a cautionary story about an uninsured client who lost a valuable collection in Hurricane Sandy. He also notes that because collectibles frequently increase and decrease in value, it’s a good idea to do an annual review every year when insurance policies are up for review. He suggests that if you can’t evaluate your collection yourself, seek the help of an expert.

oops: 7 reasons why you need insurance for expensive collectibles

Did your own clumsiness or butterfingers ever result in the loss of a valued possession? You aren’t alone. Businessweek has a fascinating slideshow of Whoops! Seven Hugely Expensive Accidents. These cringeworthy tales run the gamut from puncturing a hole in a multi-million dollar Picasso painting to breaking one of the 50 remaining Stradivarius cellos, a mistake estimated at $20 million.
The case of the damaged painting had widespread attention. The painting was owned by casino mogul Steve Wynn, who damaged the it when showing it to friends. You can read more about the unfortunate incident in the New Yorker‘s article The $40 Million Elbow. Of course, the painting was insured – but as might be expected with such an expensive item, things got complicated. Wynn filed a lawsuit against insurer Lloyds of London for $54 million in lost damages. Later news reports say the case was settled out of court.
Learn from these mistakes. Whether it’s a Picasso or a dental crown that once belonged to Elvis Presley, it’s important to make sure that your expensive collections are properly insured.

Canadian Dentist Adds Crowning Touch to His Collection

According to NPR, a dentist from Alberta, Canada, recently paid $10,000 for a dental crown that once belonged to Elvis Presley. His collection, which has pride of place in his waiting room, also includes a rotten tooth that was extracted from John Lennon. The curious can view a photo of the Preseley’s dental model and spare crown, which he kept for “insurance” in case he cracked or broke the one in his mouth.

Michael Zuk, the dentist in question, is just one of many collectors across the globe. There are any number of strange collections on view on the internet – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find one that didn’t include Graham Barker’s navel fluff collection, so proceed at your own risk. Before you scoff, however, remember that many museums began as private collections: the Victorians, in particular, were obsessive collectors of all manner of things.

Collecting things seems to be a common thread for most human beings. It starts in childhood: most kids have a collection of one thing or another, ranging from rocks to bugs (spare a moment to pity the poor mother of the intrepid budding entomologist) at some point during their youth. You may have a collection of your own. Many of us, in a trend that spans centuries, bring home spoons or shot glasses or other souvenirs of our travels. I myself have a cabinet full of emblazoned coffee mugs from such exotic locales as Zoo Atlanta. Well, they have pandas.

Collections are not without risk. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, in the charming 1953 comedy The Long Long Trailer, nearly have their honeymoon derailed by Lucy’s rock collection. Rocks on the open road are an unlikely danger, but unfortunately, collections can be lost in other, more mundane ways, such as fire or theft. If you have a collection that you value, talk over insurance coverage options with your independent insurance agent and make sure it’s covered on your homeowners or renters policy. After all, today’s stamp album can turn out to be tomorrow’s retirement fund.