This article is adapted from a story in the November/December 2006 issue of Fine Books & Collections magazine.

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Book Insurance
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Most insurance experts do not recommend that you rely on your homeowner’s insurance to protect your collection against damage or theft. Dorit Straus, the worldwide fine arts manager at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, says, “Collectors need to look at [book] values just like artwork."

Collectors should insure their books under a separate fine arts policy or a rider on an existing policy that adds specific coverage for materials like books, manuscripts, and maps. Never assume that homeowner’s insurance provides full coverage for a collection.

General homeowner policies provide market-value (the actual cash value) coverage for items in the home, but not always replacement value. The cost of a basic policy can be relatively inexpensive. “If a collection is worth $3,000 or more, it should be insured under a separate policy,” said Dan Walker, owner of Collectibles Insurance Agency. The estimated premium for this level of coverage could cost as little as $12 annually.

A good fine-arts policy usually does not require a deductible, provides ninety days of reimbursement coverage for newly acquired items, and covers many more kinds of losses than a standard policy. Most homeowner’s policies won’t pay for books ruined by broken pipes, leaky roofs, or earthquakes.

Here are some tips:

  • Know what you have and have some idea of what your collection is worth.
  • Start with an inventory that includes basic information about each book - author, title, edition, and condition.
  • Take photographs of individual books or shelf-by-shelf pictures.
  • Keep a file of sales receipts and dealer and auction-house descriptions of purchased items.
  • Monitor values and increase your policy's limits from time to time.

In the event of damage to the collection, Straus said that most insurance companies will hire a specialist to make an evaluation. “Time is of the essence when dealing with damaged books.”

If records are detailed and up-to-date, then filed claims can be handled promptly and smoothly. And, of course, no one wants to lose the investment in a collection assembled over decades simply for lack of proper insurance.

Do you have a question about book care or book collecting? Submit your question and it could be answered in a future issue of the Avid Collector!
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