Insuring Your Glass

by Alex Citron
Issue No. 355 - November 2002

You have bean collecting Cambridge Glass for over twenty years. You have acquired over eighteen-hundred pieces. You have taken out a second mortgage so you can build cabinets along every wall in your home. Your family and friends think you're a little bit crazy. With all that glass. Sound familiar?

Let's state the obvious: a lot of us have put a lot of money into our collections. Even those lucky ones who bought their glass years ago when it wasn't so dear now have something of considerable material value. It would not be surprising to find that quite a few of us have collections valued in excess of $100,000. And many more have collections worth ten, twenty, or fifty-thousand dollars.

The conventional wisdom used to be that one's homeowners policy was enough protection for a glass collection. As long as your contents coverage kept up with your glass, you were O.K. And that's largely true if you are concerned only with catastrophic loss: a fire, a tornado, a major theft. In most cases, a glass collection will be covered just like any other possession in your home. After a deductible, you arc covered for your losses.

During the last two decades, however, the idea of specialized insurance for antiques end collectibles has become mainstream. Many if not most serious collectors now carry some type of special insurance on their glass.

The types of insurance available for your antique glass collection fall into three main types. The first is Called scheduled personal property. This is ordinarily treated as an addendum to one's homeowners policy. You provide your carrier with a complete listing, piece by piece of your collection; your premium is based on the total value you declare, and will increase a bit with every new piece you acquire.

In most cases scheduled personal property will cover everything on the list with no deductible, regard less of the reason for the loss. In other words, if you drop one stem, worth only $15 you can get a check for $15 from your insurer. If your entire collection is destroyed in an earthquake, you'll get a check for the total declared value. The therapy you would need is at your own expense.

Scheduled Personal Property is available with or without inflation coverage. If you get it, you spend a bit more for premiums, but you don't need to keep updating declared costs as your collection goes up in value. You get paid the value of a piece at the time of loss, not at the time of purchase. This is often a big difference!

The second type of Insurance is a Property Rider (called different things by different companies) and which is essentially an increase in the amount of coverage for personal property and household contents on your homeowners policy. It will insure your belongings, including your glass, against losses which exceed the current limits of your homeowners policy. This is the least expensive option but it usually carries a sizeable deductible (it is intended for catastrophic loss, not for the loss of one or two pieces of glass}. Covered this way, your collection can be insured up to any amount you specify. so there's no need for a lot of record-keeping, lists and updates. It's a way to get coverage with little or no effort, and low premiums, but it a not very useful if you have a relatively small loss. Often it will not cover a loss which is your fault.

The third type of coverage is a specialized policy for Antiques and Collectibles. The Chubb Group, which sponsors "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS, is the leading provider of this type of insurance. Of course that's why they've chosen to associate themselves with that program.

This type of insurance is especially tailored to collections. It has built-in value protection. You are always covered for replacement cost. Even if you found a Japonica Urn at a yard Sale for $10, you'll get full replacement value when your nephew breaks it. The down side of this is that the claims department may require you to do a bit of research to back up your idea of replacement value.

Collectibles policies also often come with claim minimums. If you have a loss under the minimum, they just won't pay a penny. This insurance works best for collections made up of individually valuable pieces. A collection of many pieces of limited individual value is better covered under scheduled personal property.

The insurance industry is well aware of the popularity of collecting and they know as well as anyone how dramatically some things can increase in value over time. Many carriers now offer several options for collectible insurance. Your current homeowners carrier can probably take care of your needs. Speak to your agent about it - just remember to ask about four things:

It is also important to be sure that a new piece is covered as soon as you acquire it, even before you have reported it to your carrier.

The best policy on Antiques and Collectibles insurance is the same as for any type of insurance. Compare coverage, premiums, restrictions, etc. and be sure you go with a carrier you trust.