Ancient Roots

Posted on Fri, 2 September 2011 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Coin News
Ancient Roots Staying safe

I MAKE no apologies this month for writing broadly similar “Comments” in both COIN NEWS and MEDAL NEWS and I hope those of you who buy both magazines (and there are a number of you out there) will forgive me and, as you read on, I hope you will agree that the subject is worthy of covering in both magazines as it is of relevance to us all.

The catalyst for this Editorial came a fortnight ago when the home of one of the Token team was burgled. He was out during the day and believed his house to be secure but somehow the thieves got in. They went through every drawer in the place and stole thousands of pounds worth of cash, laptops, watches, cameras, etc., but he was also lucky. He had an extensive medal collection in the house and whilst the burglars rifled through the cabinet they stole none of them. It transpires they were heroin addicts (the police have now caught them although his property is long gone) and only looking for items they could fence quickly and medals obviously weren’t on their hit list. Now whilst the trauma of having your house broken into is bad, and knowing that someone has been rifling through your personal possessions is a horrible feeling, the fact is it could have been so, so much worse. That wonderful collection that he had spent almost a decade accumulating could even now be broken up, melted down even and certainly lost forever. This warning shot has made him re-look at his security, get an alarm, take his medals to the bank and generally be far more aware of what potentially could happen. Not only that, but what the insurance company is insisting on has also made him realise he has to be far more diligent with his record keeping.

Essentially, the insurance company are insisting on seeing receipts or some proof of ownership of all the items stolen — in some cases he is able to provide these but in most not, after all who keeps a receipt from a watch that’s six years old, or a laptop that is out of warranty? Very few of us would bother to keep such things. We have the goods, they work, they’ve been paid for and every now and then we de-clutter, getting rid of their boxes and receipts pertaining to them. Apparently we aren’t meant to do this “just in case” some low life decides to divest us of our worldly goods. Now, in the future he will of course keep such receipts, he’s learning the hard way, but how much worse would it have been if his medals had been stolen? Like most of us collectors he buys at auction (for which he will have proof of purchase) or on-line (again a proof of the transaction will be available somewhere) or at a medal fair/boot sale/antiques fair—for those transactions you can bet your life he has few proofs of purchase, after all why would he? He has the goods and they aren’t likely to go wrong!

This experience then got me thinking about how he would stand in the event of an insurance claim where his medals had gone missing—and the answer is “not in a strong position”. The insurance company would need him to prove he had what he says he had and for him, and most of us, that would not be that easy. Now the insurance company aren’t being unreasonable—they can’t pay out any and every claim without checking because, as we all know, fraud does go on. But how do you actually go about proving the existence, or value, of a collection such as the ones we all have? Certainly he has a written record, but that’s something he wrote himself and so no proof at all in the eyes of the insurers. Apart from that, what else could be done? Well, it seems that in this day and age you have to have as much proof as is humanly possible in order to satisfy insurers and so I’d like to make a few suggestions but if any readers have further ones then please do get in touch. Firstly, check your coins are covered in your policy—if not then take steps to insure them separately. Then, if you can, photograph your collection, both as a collection as a whole (in trays, cabinets, etc.) and individual pieces (try to do that in situ so that the insurer knows that these were actually your items and not photos from a dealer’s table at a coin fair!). Once you have taken those photos don’t leave them on the SD card in the camera or on your laptop—cameras and laptops are likely to go missing too if you get burgled—so back them up on a disk and keep that in a safe place. Also, try to log every transaction, if you don’t get a receipt at least make a note of when and where you buy things. Bona fide dealers keep records too and will be able to confirm to an insurer that you did indeed purchase what you said you did. Apart from that there isn’t much more you can do except make things as difficult for a thief as possible. Consider taking your collection to a bank (if they’ll still accept them, many don’t). Think about an alarm or maybe a safe, failing that get a lockable cabinet/box (most burglars are looking for easily portable items: they will happily stuff a few coins in a holdall but won’t run the risk of being seen or caught with a coin cabinet or case). Ensure every window and door is a secure as it can be and, if they aren’t in a bank, make sure your coins are as well hidden, or as well disguised as possible. If a burglar is determined to get in to your house he will—your job is to make it as difficult as possible for him to do so, offer him as little to steal as possible and to make it as easy as possible for you to get the value of your collection back if he does. Not a particularly happy subject for my usual “Comment” I know, but maybe one that will save you a lot of heartache and a lot of money.

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