Everyone has a homeowner’s insurance policy. Usually it is first a requirement of your mortgage lender, who wants to protect its investment in your property. Second, it is a concept that we have grown up with. Our parents had house insurance. We should have insurance. Insurance protects your house and its contents and allows you to rebuild or replace in the event of a catastrophe. This is a basic truth.

Surprisingly however, hardly anyone reads their insurance policy. It is full of legal language and it is a boring read so we file it away to save it in the event of claim. I am a personal property appraiser and not an insurance salesman. I do know, however, that the key to properly insuring your assets is to know exactly what you have and what it is worth before anything adverse happens. As simple as it seems, one should know what your contents are worth and whether or not you are properly protected by your insurance coverage. By having a certified appraiser establish what your items are worth, you are pre-qualifying what you would receive from your insurance policy before a loss occurs. You should read your policy and have your insurance agent answer any questions you may have about your coverage.

Depending on the nature of your contents, you may have different risks to assess. Porcelain and glass collectors need to ensure they are covered for breakage. If you have inherited artwork, a sudden jump in values will leave you uninsured. Today most insurance policies protect general contents based upon the real estate value of your home. If you have a $500,000 valued home, they might insure 50% ($250,000) or 70% ($350,000) of contents. This is probably adequate for most home owners; however, in the event of a claim, the insured still has to prove the value of the loss. There are many ways to do this. Having an appraisal is one option. Videotaping the contents of your home is another. Keeping purchase receipts of each item is another, but in every case, don’t keep any of these records in the house.

Once again, reading your insurance policy can help. Usually there are exclusions or limits in your policy. This is especially true of silver, furs, and jewelry and it may apply to fine art and antiques. Unless you have a separate Rider in your policy, limits may be set on dollar values or single loss events. A one time theft of silver may entitle you to recover only $2,500. The silver may be worth more than this amount but your right to collect the full value may be is limited. This may be particularly important for a collector, who is particularly interested in having the right insurance protection. . A homeowner should know his rights and limits of protection also..

There are three ways a collector insures their personal collections:

  1. Unscheduled Personal Property Section of the Homeowners Policy for up to 50 percent of the value of the dwelling:
  1. Scheduled “All Risk” Coverage
  1. Blanket “All Risk” Coverage

Read the policy. If you have questions or do not understand what the policy says, ask your insurance broker. Basically, you should have the right policy for your needs. It starts with the proper knowledge and also with knowing the current values of your assets. If it has been 2-5 years since your contents or collections have been appraised, you may want a new appraisal. Remember, in the event of a loss, the burden of proof is your responsibility.

As a further note, in reading your insurance policy, you should also understand your protection against such risks from floods, broken plumbing, hurricanes, wind, mold, and insects. Often these risks are either not covered or have limited coverage. Also, not all policies are written on insurance replacement value.


Nelson Clayton, ASA, ISA CAPP, is a personal property appraiser, accredited with the American Society of Appraisers, Inc. to appraise household contents and with the International Society of Appraisers, Inc. certified to appraise personal property. His company, Appraisers of Distinction, LLC, practices in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. His partner, Patricia Shippee, is a specialist in fine art. Mr. Clayton serves on the Personal Property Committee of the American Society of Appraisers, Inc. and in July, he will begin service as a Board of Governor’s member.





Nelson O. Clayton is an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers. He is designated in Personal Property Residential Contents-General and Antiques and Decorative Arts. He is also a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property of the International Society of Appraisers, Inc., approved to appraise Antiques and Residential Contents. He is actively engaged in the appraisal of household contents, and antiques and decorative arts and he is building his credentials in silver, and fine arts. With consultation with experts, he has appraised paintings and sculpture in the appraised range of $10-$550,000, individual items of silver in the $40,000 range, clocks in the $30,000 range, and furniture in the $125,000 range. His training at the Winterthur Museum helped him to develop these skills. In addition, he is trained in research and analysis, first as a senior bank-lending officer, and second, as an appraiser. In every assignment, Mr. Clayton continues to develop his skills by identifying and analyzing complete household contents, collections, and family heirlooms. Mr. Clayton’s appraisal business has been developed through personal referral and direct contact with families requiring appraisal of their household contents, primarily for estate tax planning and settlement, donations, divorce and insurance purposes. He has evaluated complete household contents as well as selected individual items.