With luck you may never need to use it, but if disaster strikes a proper valuation will make your dealings with the insurance company infinitely quicker and easier.
All our possessions are valuable to us. Some we prize purely for sentimental reasons, but others are also worth a surprising amount of money, and it is well worth having these professionally valued for insurance purposes.
While the following advice is as accurate as possible, individual policies may differ in some aspects, so please check your own if you are in doubt as to the extent of your insurance cover. Insurance companies issue a Home Contents Cover schedule, which will cover all your possessions against fire, flood and theft. Cover is also provided while the goods are in transit when moving home - but with the proviso that brittle goods like china and glass must have been
packed by professionals. Accidental breakage of china ornaments or glassware in the home by the policy holder or their family falls into a grey area. There can be many exclusions, and it is important to read the small print carefully and ask for an explanation of anything that is unclear to you before buying insurance cover.
Any items worth over about £3,500 come under the heading of Specified Valuables, and need special insurance based on a valuation certificate from a reputable professional. It can be a real eye-opener to find out how much your treasured collection adds up to, and it is also helpful after a break-in, a fire or a flood to be able to refer to a comprehensive list of valuations at a time when you are most under stress. It is also a good idea to take clear colour photographs of your valuables - these will be of great assistance to the police in the event of theft.
Another useful precaution is to mark pieces with your name and address or postcode using a special pen. The writing will be invisible on the article but will show up clearly under an ultra-violet light, a virtually cast-iron proof of ownership.
There are three kinds of value for antiques: the re-sale value will be less than its market value; the retail value is the price you will pay for the article; and the insurance value is always much higher than the retail value this is because the insurers take into account the difficulty of trying to find a near or exact replica to replace the damaged or stolen item. So if an item cost you £100 to buy, you will re-sell it at about £50 to £60, but the insurance valuation will be pegged at around £150-£180, depending on the rarity or uniqueness of the piece.
When buying valuable antiques, ask the seller for a receipt describing the item
as well as giving its price. This can be submitted to the insurance company in the event of a claim.
Auction houses will readily tell you what they estimate your antique might fetch at auction, but they are not in the
business of giving written valuations. It is better to approach an antiques or specialist shop, or a reputable dealer at an antiques fair, and see whether they provide this service. A friendly insurance agent or the insurance company itself can sometimes recommend the right person.
However, if you have a diverse collection of antiques, it is best to approach specialist dealers. Clocks, for instance, can be worth considerably more than a general dealer might at first think. An expert will be able to establish the age and condition of the clock. If the name of a collectable maker is present, this will add enormously to the value.
Charges usually consist of a flat fee of $15 with Whats It Worth To You, and for this you will receive a written valuation of your belongings.
If you have a large collection of valuables, it might be best to have the valuation conducted in your own home, as transport could be costly or incur damage. In this case, it is particularly important that the valuer should be a reputable one with impeccable references. Never invite into your home anyone of whom you have even the slightest suspicions.
All valuations should be updated from time to time. Insurance companies' house contents valuations are now index-linked, but if what you have been collecting for years suddenly becomes fashionable or trendy in the collecting world the retail prices can shoot up disproportionately. For example, only about ten or 15 years ago you could buy Moorcroft pottery reasonably cheaply; now, a large vase in a popular and collected pattern can cost hundreds of pounds.
Anything silver is likely to be a prime target for burglars, so be certain to get a professional valuation done.
It is worth going to a specialist to get jewellery, watches or clocks valued - they could be worth more than you think.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
• If you're unsure whether something you own is worth
insuring separately, take it to an auction room to find the re-sale value, then decide whether to pay for a proper valuation.
• Be careful not to assume that an object isn't valuable just because it's not to your taste - something you hated as a child may nonetheless be worth a tidy sum.
• A valuation isn't worth a thing if the dealer is not a reputable one.