Valuable Property Requires Special Insurance

By Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA

Everyone is different.  Some people have a passion for boats; others for antique cars.  Some collect stamps or coins; others collect art.  Some people consider their family heirlooms to be their most prized possession; others value their jewelry.

Because everyone is different, we all have different insurance needs.  No one policy will cover everything, so it is important to have a clear idea of what your insurance needs are and the value of what you’re looking to protect.

You probably have a passion for whatever it is that sets you apart.  It may be a hobby, something you collect for its value, or both, but you likely want to make certain it is protected.  What do you need to do to insure your antiques or your jewelry, your boat or your stamp collection?

Jewelry.  Homeowner’s insurance covers not only your home, but your personal property inside it, but only for theft.  Even in cases of theft, your total coverage for personal property is generally limited to 50 percent to 70 percent of the coverage amount on your home, depending on your policy.

Homeowner’s insurance also sets dollar limits for theft of personal property in specific categories, including jewelry, watches, firearms, furs, and both semi-precious and precious stones.  The limits do not apply to damage or destruction of property, which is less common.  Limits for theft are typically $1,000 for jewelry and furs, and $2,000 for firearms.

If your jewelry is lost or damaged, whether you are at home or away, your homeowner’s policy typically will not cover the loss.

However, additional coverage can be added to your homeowner’s policy to cover not only loss or damage, but theft above what is typically covered.  A professional appraisal will be needed to determine a reasonable value for your jewelry and photos should be taken to provide an inventory of what you own.

Fine art and antiques.  Art and antiques are not fully covered by your homeowner’s policy.  Policies differ, but homeowner’s insurance will typically cover only the replacement value of an item.  If you use an antique table in your kitchen and it is stolen, insurance will pay for you to buy another kitchen table, not a valuable antique.  If your fine art is stolen, insurance will pay to replace it with art of like kind and quality, but it will not reimburse you for its intrinsic or emotional value.

Even then, these assets would be included with other personal property in the cumulative coverage limit of 50 percent to 70 percent of the total coverage for your home.

However, you can add a personal articles floater as an endorsement to your homeowner’s policy to boost your coverage.  As with jewelry, professional appraisals are needed for art and antiques.  The value is very subjective, so be certain you have a written appraisal from a qualified professional.  The appraisal should include a written description, as well as an estimated value.  Also take photos, which can help verify the condition of your art and antiques, as well as their existence.

The personal articles floater can be used to insure coins, guns, cameras, golf equipment and other unusual and rare personal possessions.

Boat insurance.  Whether you own a car, a private plane or a boat, you will need special insurance to cover potential physical damage, as well as potential liability from bodily injury and property damage.  You may also consider optional coverage for medical payments, and protection from accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured boaters.

While boat insurance is generally not mandatory, insurance is typically a requirement for financing the purchase of a boat and many marinas will not allow a boat to be docked unless it is insured.  Even if insurance is not required, it is highly recommended, not only to protect the value of your investment, but to minimize personal exposure to potential liability claims.

You may want to add specialized coverage for fishing equipment, personal property on the boat, the cleanup of fuel and debris in case of an accident, or towing and other assistance.

Discounts may be available if your boat has safety equipment, such as depth finders and fire extinguishers.  You may also earn a discount if you complete a marine safety course, such as those sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadron.

Consider carefully whether you want to insure your boat for its replacement value or for its actual cash value at the time your write your policy.  You may also purchase insurance for an “agreed amount value,” which would allow you to waive co-insurance penalties, as long as you maintain replacement value coverage on your boat.

Homeowner’s insurance typically provides very limited coverage for your boat, including up to $1,000 in damages while the boat is stored at your home.  However, personal watercraft, such as jet skiis, are typically excluded from homeowner’s policies.

As these examples demonstrate, there is an insurance policy for virtually any need.  If you are not properly insured, you could be exposing yourself to potential liability or you may be putting yourself in financial jeopardy.  Make certain you’ve discussed your prized possessions with your insurance agent.

Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA is President and CEO of McGrath Insurance Group, Inc. of Sturbridge, Mass.  He can be reached at

This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.