Antiques

You probably own an antique; or maybe not.  There really isn’t an agreed upon definition of “antique” and it is frequently defined by the seller. It is extremely unlikely your insurance policy will define antique.  Generally, we rely on a reasonable understanding as reflected, for example a definition like that found in the American Heritage Dictionary:

Antique – 1. Of or belonging to ancient times,

2. Belonging to, made in, or typical of an earlier period and

3. Old-fashioned—an object having special value because of its age, especially a work of art or handicraft that is more than 100 years old.

Many antique professionals adhere to the 100 year old part of the definition, but that is abandoned for cars, where the standard has crept up over the years from 25 years old to 75.  The U.S. Customs service considers 100 years old as the standard for “antiques.” 

The definition is actually less important than the fact that basic property insurance policies are designed to handle “ordinary” property. For example, 8 antique Wedgwood tea cups and saucers dating from around 1870-1902 could be valued around $3,000 when sold as antiques. A similar set bought new from Wedgwood today would cost about $320; that would be a good estimate of the replacement value on a claim.  Special property coverage is generally either excluded or severely limited, so it makes sense to protect such property by explicitly adding coverage or by purchasing a special, separate policy.

Before trying to arrange coverage, establish the value of the property. For most people an inexpensive source such as a price guide may be available to determine value. For art or furniture, auction records may be a good, readily available source.  Otherwise, you may need to have the value determined by a professional appraiser or use current receipts or sales bills if items are recently purchased. Document everything that may affect value.  For example, provenance, a term for information that proves an item’s history.  Provenance can affect value when there are facts that affect value – an early year of manufacture, relationship to some historical event or previous ownership by a famous person.

Once a current value is determined, you can begin to look at options.  When there are just a few antiques or collectibles worth a few thousand dollars, you can consider coverage by a rider on a homeowner’s insurance policy. This is typically not an expensive option, but a homeowner’s policy may not be appropriate when a client needs to insure millions of dollars worth of fine art and collectibles. Specialized insurance may be the best option to avoid the exclusions and deductibles of a homeowner’s policy and offers broader coverage and options to underwrite a specific type of collection.  If your collection might travel with you – like art or jewelry – consider an Inland Marine Policy as an option.

To obtain coverage, you will need to provide an insurer with a schedule — an inventory of the items to be insured. The items must be valued by an appraisal, a bill of sale or statement of replacement value, based on the current market price – the information you gathered to value the collection.   Properly describing, scheduling coverage and setting policy limits to protect uncommon and high-priced items will help reduce problems at the time of loss. It reduces the chance of coverage being denied and more clearly defines what is covered and for how much.

If you need coverage for high value antiques, contact your Washington home insurance professional at Homer Smith Insurance to talk about your situation. No matter the value of your antiques, fine art or collectibles, you have a lot of insurance options.

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