Making an insurance inventory of your vintage silver, while perhaps not the sexiest of New Year’s resolutions, could save you an enormous amount of hassle — and possibly heartbreak and money. The question once came up in conversation with a client regarding a bad experience with an insurance claim.
We all know that a home insurance inventory is one of those documents we should all have, but few of us actually do. I’m guilty too. It’s been on my to-do list for ages, but I still have not gotten around to it. It’s daunting to think about cataloging the sheer quantity of stuff in the average house.
And what is the best way to do it? Do you need a detailed spreadsheet? Or is a quick tour of each room with your iPhone on video mode enough? After lots of research, it seems that a combination of approaches may be the best way. For instance, a video tour of your DVD collection will suffice. But not, unfortunately, for your vintage silver.
4 Things Your Silver Insurance Inventory Must Show
- Identity – what is the item?
- Quantity – how many do you have?
- Scale – how large is the item(s)?
- Proof – what are the hallmarks/makers marks on the item?
Numbers 1-3 on the list can be knocked off with one simple photo. Line up your item(s) and place them in the photo next to a ruler, or a dollar bill, or something else that clearly shows their size and scale.
This photo on the left comes from my silver shop. I use a standard sized business card to give shoppers a sense of scale of these salt cellars. As an aside, even though I provide measurements in my descriptions, it still helps people to see in a photo the item against a common object.
However, as I have seen people find out the hard way, unless your insurance inventory has a photo of number 4 — the marks — you may be out of luck if you need to make a claim.
Why are the marks so important?
The marks are so important because even though you may have captured identity, quantity and scale in your lovely photo, you have not yet proved that your items are actually silver. They may be silver plate.
And, as we all know, silver (of whatever standard of fineness) is far more valuable than silver plate. But your insurance company is not going to take your word for it that the item was silver. They are going to want proof. Short of a detailed appraisal, the best way for you to provide that proof is a photo of the marks on the back/bottom/side of your piece. These marks will show who made it (the makers mark or trademark) and the standard of fineness (sterling, coin silver, .800, .930, etc.)
Please believe me when I say that having these two photos of your antique and vintage silver could save you a lot of trouble if some calamity struck your house.
What about proof of value?
While it is nice to be able to provide a receipt, it is not an absolutely critical piece of information.
For one thing, you may have inherited, rather than purchased a piece. Second, values change, sometimes dramatically, over time. Third, if you have the photos described above, it will be possible to establish the current replacement cost of comparable items is. Obviously, the older/rarer your piece is, the more likely you will be comparing it to ‘comparable’ items rather than exact matches.
It is also worth checking with your insurance company to see whether your silver is even covered under your standard policy. Depending on your policy, high value items like silver and jewelry are sometimes excluded, unless specific arrangements are made.
One service I always provide my clients is a vital piece of paper to include in their insurance inventory for their purchases from Silver Magpies. Although the format has varied over the years, all my items go to their new homes with this important piece of paper. Here is an example of Silver Magpies current Insurance Description. So keep that piece of paper for your insurance inventory!
If you know someone who is dealing with this issue, please pass on this post. Thanks!