Guide: Valuing Art and Antiques for Insurance

Ornamental antique carved sofa with beige upholstery in a period setting
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Collecting art and antiques is a wonderful pastime that comes to many of us once we have more time and resources to spend on ourselves and less on buying homes and raising children.


You may be reading this at the beginning of your collector’s journey or simply out of interest to make sure your collection is adequately insured, so I’ll start with the basics.

Are my art and antiques insured on my regular home and contents insurance policy?

The answer to that is possibly. There are indeed some home insurers who won’t bat an eyelid at including your collectables, equally, if you have a fairly basic home and contents policy then no, probably not. It all really depends on the quality of the policy. I’d be happy to check it for you. If you have just a few pieces I’d expect it to cost you a couple of hundred pounds to insure them, if included in a household policy by an insurer who is happy underwrite fine art, rising incrementally with the size of the collection. Stand-alone fine art policies are not generally available for less than a thousand pounds plus insurance premium tax at 12%.

I have been given or purchased quite an expensive piece of art or an antique – how should I proceed to having it insured?

Firstly, you will need ‘evidence of authenticity’, which confirms the piece is what you say it is. Artwork and antiques should come with ‘provenance’ or history, in the form of bills of sale and receipts that go back to the piece’s birth. Top tip: always insist on provenance if buying expensive art and antiques.

Once you have your provenance in order you need to have it professionally valued in order to confirm the age of the work and likely attribution (identity of the artist or craftsperson). This can be done either at one of the well-known auction houses such as Sotheby’s or Christies, or, by one of several smaller independent auction houses or valuers I recommend. Depending on the value and profile of the piece, valuers and auction houses may assist with establishing provenance as well as attribution in order to increase the likelihood of a strong sale price.

Finally, once you have received your valuation you are ready to get it insured. It’s worth noting,if a policy is already in place, for future purchases it is possible for your broker to provide immediate and temporary cover the moment you buy the piece. You will be given a short amount of time, usually up to 60 days, to provide provenance and a valuation before regular cover can begin.

Protect the things you care for

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The importance of up-to-date inventories

I frequently meet clients who do not have an up-to-date inventory of their art and antiques; either because the collection has grown organically over the years, or simply because they didn’t realise they had to have one. Having an up-to-date inventory makes life so much easier when not just insuring your valuables but also when making a claim. In certain circumstances an insurance adviser will come out to your home and help you make the inventory.

Who should insure my art or antiques?

I would recommend you talk to an experienced insurance adviser like Partners&. This is a very specialised area, which requires skill and knowledge of the market.What should I look for in a decent insurance policy for my art or antiques?

  • Pairs and sets – Say you own a pair of Ming vases, and you break one. You may be compensated for the reduction in value of the remaining vase two vases, not just one. The value is in the pair so you may be paid for both if the insurer decides to take possession of the remaining article.
  • Death of the artist – if you have commissioned a contemporary artist and they die mid-process, you may be able to claim the value of the unfinished item, or commission payments already made.
  • Acquisitions –The most flexible policies will allow you to increase your ownership of valuable pieces, usually approximately 25% of the value of your entire collection, without having to let your insurer know immediately. You will have 60 days to inform the insurer of the new purchases.
  • Specialist loss adjustors – if you have a specialist art and insurance policy your claim will be assigned a specialist loss adjustor to assess the damage to your piece and recommend appropriate restorers, crucial when talking about very special items.
  • Transit coverage – If you would like to take your favourite painting to your house abroad for the summer, you will need a specialist transit coverage clause. You’ll still need to let your insurer know when you move it, but the facility is there for it to be insured during transit.

What security steps do I need to take in my home, to protect my art and antiques?

It is often said that the safest place for your collectables is locked up in a safe in a bank but, as that rather defeats the object of having them, let’s look at what you need to do and more importantly, what your insurer will expect you to do, to keep your art and antiques safe. Be under no illusion, without decent security you simply won’t get insurance, this isn’t a request, it’s a requirement of most policies

It may help you to understand what an insurer thinks about when offering you a policy. Take this as an example:

A high-profile homeowner, who is often away from home and who lives in a high-risk area with a poor alarm system can expect to pay more for their insurance than a low-profile homeowner, who is rarely away from home, and who lives in a more secure postcode. The lower the risk, the lower the premium.

Get alarms fitted

If you don’t already have an alarm fitted, ask your insurance adviser for advice on the system you’ll need – usually a minimum Grade 3. Ideally it should go through to a centrally monitored station, but in some circumstances, bells alone will suffice – for example, if the value of the items insured is not too high.

If you have questions about specialised art and antiques insurance contact our partner Partners&.

Caring for your art and antiques at home

Now that you have your wonderful pieces (picture/desk/chair/vase/silverware) at home, and you are getting great pleasure from owning them. It’s time to turn your mind to caring for them, as damage can seriously affect future valuations, so how should look after your new pieces, here’s what you need to consider.

Environment – Keep things away from the light if possible and in a smoke, damp-free environment. For instance, don’t put something directly in front of a window pouring full sunlight on it, or it may fade. Paper is especially vulnerable as it fades and crinkles; remember, that wear and tear is never covered on art and antiques insurance policies.

Pests – Beware woodworm, beetles, moths or anything that could find its way into your property and end up making its home in your expensive piece of art. Take steps to prevent any of these little critters getting into your home.

Conservation - This really should be a watchword for you. Look after your art and antiques. If they need repair, take them to a professional – trying to do a DIY job could seriously affect the value of the piece. For example: You seriously damage a piece of furniture; you send it away for valuation for the insurance claim and whilst it is there, they can see you have done some DIY fixing. The amount they will pay out will likely be reduced because of your efforts. Had it been done by a professional, the insurance may have paid out a larger amount. Damage or not, the piece was worth less because of your attempts to fix it. Always get work done by a professional to protect your investment.

What are the most common reasons stated for claims against art and insurance policies?

Many people presume that theft would be the biggest reason for making a claim but it isn’t. In our experience it is physical damage, water damage, fire and then theft.

Specialist insurance advice

As I said earlier, whether you are an experienced collector or just starting out, talking to a specialist insurance adviser is crucial to ensure your collection is properly listed, insured and cared for. I’d be happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have and look forward to seeing your collection grow.

By Jane Byde, Insurance Adviser, Partners&

Partners& challenge the status quo by delivering insurance advice that makes a difference. Combining technical knowledge with service and intelligent use of technology, they offer clients the confidence and peace of mind that you are protected so with tailored recommendations that are right for you.

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