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Should I get written valuations for my antiques? What about additional insurance?

It's all the Antiques Roadshow's fault.  I'm often asked by shop patrons or people at shows "How much is this worth?"  I don't mind the question as it usually leads to an interesting discussion with a new antiquing friend, some of whom become customers.  

Everyone has something that used to be great-grandfather's and they want to know how much its worth.  Other people seek out and collect something specific, like carnival glass, flow blue pottery, clocks, steamer trunks, etc.  And after awhile they have several of these inherited or sought-after antiques floating around their home.

If your family only has a few of these antique, vintage or collectible pieces, you probably have enough homeowners or renters insurance.  But if you're like me and can see a dozen or more of these valuable items within arm's reach from where you are currently sitting, you might need to consider additional insurance.  And your insurance provider may require a written valuation.

A close friend recently had a devastating house fire.  It was difficult for the family to document what they had lost (do you know how many pairs of jeans are in your closet?), but it was even more difficult to think of the things that could never be recovered.  And even if you have insurance, proving the value of your antique items after the fact can be very difficult.

Insurance companies place limits on items like fine art, electronics, jewelry and wine, items that often exceed the allowable reimbursement limit.  Did you know your antique furniture is just considered "used" furniture by an insurance company?  Can you imagine a mid-Victorian, English sideboard you paid $3000 for (or $300, after which you lovingly restored it to be worth $3000), being labeled a  "used sofa table" by an insurance adjuster after a fire?  Or a circa 1800 Chinese lacquered bench labeled a "used stool"?  

A video or written inventory carries only so much weight with an insurance company.  If you have a collection of something, big or small, you should have a written valuation documenting your collection.  Then, sit down with your insurance agent and discuss coverage.  You may find the cost of an additional personal property insurance policy well worth the investment of your time.  I hope you never need it.

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