Collection Inventories

Tangible property and collection inventories are steadily becoming requirements among insurance agents in the wake of frequent and extreme natural disasters. Even if policies cover the value of household content and no special rider is necessary, agents want proof pre-emptively to ensure against fraud. Part of an appraiser’s role with insurance adjusters is affirming that the piece did indeed exist, in the possession of said owner. At a minimum, inventories do just that, and if you want the values determined for all or some of the items, that would be an add-on option.

Having a third party describe the items will be helpful should they be stolen or damaged and identification be necessary. Appraisers are skilled at documenting what are called the “physical characteristics” of a piece. They will draft a description with all the lovely detailing like style, decorations, shape, colors and patinas. In their role as an unbiased party, they will include a condition report listing any imperfections such as cracks, chips, lifting veneers, replacement handles, or areas of noticeable restoration. These details, the good and the bad, could combine to prove a piece is yours and not a copy or reproduction, should there be some disagreement over authenticity.

Keeping an inventory of your collection in a digital record file, together with your photographs, is an invaluable source of reference. You will find it an indispensable way of remembering the history of a piece. If possible, an inventory entry should:

  • list where each object came from–antique shop, auction, flea market–and the date you bought or acquired it;
  • the price you paid, along with a full written receipt (scanned or photographed);
  • anything else you know about the object’s history and any correspondence relating to it;
  • any old photographs that show the piece that could help date it;
  • scans or photocopies of similar pieces illustrated in books or periodicals, the reference along with the title and date of publication;
  • scans or photocopies of similar pieces sold at auction, including photocopies or digital scans of the catalog description, estimate sale price, and photograph.

If your collection continues to grow subsequent to an initial inventory, accumulate an electronic record of all of the items mentioned above by periodically scanning relevant documents. It is advised that insurance appraisals be updated every five years and the same is true for inventories. Your appraiser can easily add digital documentation on a five year maintenance schedule, for a small additional fee.