Volume 49, Number 8, September 2011
Safety First THOSE of you who read COIN NEWS as well as this magazine will already know the subject about which I am writing this month, but I make no apologies for the similar “Comments” as I truly believe this to be extremely important. The catalyst for this Editorial came a few weeks ago when one of the Token team was burgled. He was out during the day and believed his house to be completely secure, but somehow the thieves got in, in broad daylight. They went through every drawer in the place and stole thousands of pounds worth of cash, laptops, watches, cameras, etc., but he was 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 may well be heroin addicts (the police have now caught a couple breaking into another house in the same area in the same way, 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 much worse. That wonderful collection that he has spent almost a decade accumulating could even now be broken up, melted down even and certainly lost for ever. 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 asking to see receipts or some proof of ownership of 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 is 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 if he’s remembered to keep it) or on line (again a proof of the transaction will be available somewhere) or at a medal fair/boot sale/antiques fair and 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 so a receipt isn’t usually required! This 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 very easy. The insurance company aren’t being unreasonable—they can’t pay out any and every claim without checking because 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—if any readers have further ideas then please do get in touch. Firstly, check your medals 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 then as individual pieces (try to do that in situ so that the insurer knows that these were actually your items and not photos from a dealers table at a fair!). Of course, this does pose a problem in terms of valuation as we all know a trio to a July 1, 1916 casualty will be worth far more than a trio to a Private in the Army Service Corps who survived the war, so if you can do your absolute best to take photographs of the naming too—never an easy task but certainly one that’s worth it if you can. Once you have taken those photos don’t leave them on the SD card in the camera or on your laptop as cameras and laptops are likely to go missing too if you get burgled. 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 system or maybe a safe, failing that get a lockable cabinet/strong box (most burglars are looking for easily portable items and will happily stuff a few items in a holdall quickly but won’t bother to spend time breaking into a cabinet or locked box). Ensure every window and door is as secure as it can be and, if they aren’t in a bank or safe, make sure your medals are as well hidden, or as well disguised as possible (many insurance companies won’t insure collections proudly displayed on walls—check your policy on that one). Of course, 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. Now, I do realise that many of you will read this and ignore it. You don’t want to hide your collections away, don’t want to take down the wonderful displays and don’t want to have to bow to the type of person who might break into your house— that is your prerogative, but if that is the case then try and get as much advice on home security as you can. You may never think it will happen to you but it can, and it does . . . often when you least expect it. 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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