policy options abound for coin collectors
By Cindy Brake
Slabs, ledgers and safes provide
Insuring a coin collection begins with questions
that end with answers resulting in peace of
mind, along with a safe and satisfactory plan.
Because every collection is unique, every
collector needs to decide what works best for
him or her.
Will a homeowner's policy be enough protection?
Is a specialized plan necessary? Is a collection
protected from loss or damage due to floods,
fire and hurricanes (or terrorists; remember
Does insurance pay replacement value or fair
Does a safe-deposit box provide enough
protection? What about a personal safe? What
kind of safe?
Where does one find answers?
One good place to start in the quest for answers
is by calling an agent or broker like Simon
Codrington, international director with Hugh
Wood Inc. HWI provides special rates to members
of the American Numismatic Association.
Coins sealed by grading services like
Professional Coin Grading Service, right, and
ANACS, above, include a unique number
identifying the coin, an added security feature,
but sonically sealed grading service slabs are
generally not watertight and melt at high
Ask a local agent
Another ready resource for information is a
local insurance agent like Dave Wilson with
Wilson, of Sidney, Ohio, home of Coin World,
explains that coin collections, like jewelry,
stamp and gun collections, require a separate
stand-alone policy from a basic homeowner plan.
A collector generally will be asked to list his
or her coins and verify the collection's value
by using either the services of an appraiser or
obtaining information from a coin catalog or
Wilson said the agent also needs to see the
collection. Premiums are based on the value of
the collection, but discounts are offered based
on where a collection is kept and the security
already in place.
Wilson said it is "very infrequent" for him to
be asked about insuring a coin collection. He
can write a policy for a collection valued up to
$50,000. Policies for higher values coverage are
available, but must be reviewed by a district
Keeping an accurate inventory is an important
step when considering insuring a collection. A
ready resource is The Coin World Ledger that
allows collectors to keep track of their
collection of U.S. coins. It may be carried in a
pocket or bag.
Codrington points out that most homeowner
policies have restrictions or exclusions for
coin collections. For example, losses due to
flood are not generally covered unless an
individual has a separate policy for flooding.
And flood insurance can be expensive.
"It varies between carriers," he said.
For coin collectors who wonder how they should
insure their valuable coins, the ANA advises
that "most homeowner insurance policies
specifically exclude coins and other numismatic
items from coverage. A rider can be obtained for
an additional premium, or a separate policy can
The ANA urges its members to "maintain records
about your collection and store a copy
separately from the coins."
ANA member policies
HWI offers ANA members six options for
A vault policy covers a collection only when it
is in a bank or safe-deposit vault. Coverage is
not provided in any other location and the value
of the collection cannot exceed $20,000. This is
one of the least expensive policies available.
Codrington points out that collectors need to
read the small print with their bank because
most have limited liability for items stored in
The bronze policy provides protection only at
home. Again, if the coins are ever transported,
the policy is not in effect.
A silver policy provides coverage of up to
$50,000 at home or in a bank safe-deposit vault
and allows the collector to hand carry the
collection between the bank and home.
A gold policy extends the silver policy to
include mailing by U.S. Postal Service
registered or insured mail anywhere within the
United States or Canada.
A platinum policy is a custom plan for
collections valued at more than $500,000.
All plans provide "all risk coverage," which
includes loss due to theft, fire, water and
earthquake. Exclusions include loss due to
storage issues such as wear, tear, corrosion or
The HWI application asks a collector for the
market value of the coins but does not require a
list. Documenting a collection for HWI can be
done by photographs, receipts or grading
"We understand most collections are dynamic,"
Codrington said. He adds, "It is important to be
honest about the value of a collection."
Collectors are reminded at www.insurance.com to
review their policy periodically to be sure they
have the correct amount of coverage. "The value
of your collection can change quickly due to
market conditions," the site cautions.
These State quarter dollars are identified with
a unique bar code and numeric code by Numismatic
Guaranty Corporation. The code can be useful in
identifying a stolen coin.
Coin dealer Bob Greenstein with Harland J. Berk
Ltd. adds that insuring a coin collection may
not be cheap, but the peace of mind is worth
Slabbed coins graded by the major services offer
a level of security of their own: They have
unique serial numbers and a bar code that can be
used to identify a specific piece – useful
information in case of theft.
Collectors should maintain inventories of their
coins. Several products are available to help
with that inventorying task.
The updated sixth edition of the Coin World
Ledger is a handy record-keeping tool that will
fit in most safe-deposit boxes. It contains a
photograph, listing and mintage information of
each U.S. coin (Proof and circulating). All U.S.
coins are listed, including major varieties. The
ledger features lay-flat binding.
Another inventory record keeper is The Official
Red Book Collector's Inventory of United States
Coins, published by Whitman Books. The
publications contain spaces for recording U.S.
circulating coins, classic and modern
commemorative coins, Proof and Mint sets, and
The publication features spiral binding and
space to record when and where a coin was
purchased, its grade, the price paid, who sold
it and other information.
The publication also serves as a numismatic
reference with history and specifications about
each denomination and coin type, including
composition, diameter, weight, Mint mark
location and other details.
Just as collectors need to be informed about
individual insurance policies, they also need to
be informed about the limitations of various
safes and safe-deposit boxes.
While common sense dictates putting coins in a
safe-deposit box or an explosion-resistant,
waterproof safe before a disaster, coin dealer
and consumer advocate Scott A. Travers suggests
in Protecting Your Coins In a Disaster that if
that's not an option, a collector should "take
out the coins of the highest value, slip them in
your hip pocket and make a run for it and leave
the other coins behind. In rising floodwaters,
even an additional five or 10 pounds can slow
you down significantly, and you could lose your
life in trying to save your coins."
According to Travers, Robert F. McLaughlin, a
security expert, said that "most insurance
underwriters will require a safe that is
approved by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
Certified coins are safest in the new generation
of safes that guarantee interior temperatures
will not rise above 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Travers adds that a lot of coin holders melt at
a few hundred degrees.
"If you have a safe that protects up to 500
degrees Fahrenheit and you have a 2000 degree
Fahrenheit fire, that safe isn't going to help
you much," Travers writes.
A collector also needs to be aware that grading
service slabs have their limitations. While
slabs are sonically sealed and tamper resistant,
most generally are not watertight and the best
slabs melt at 480 degrees Fahrenheit, according
Another detail to check out if you travel with
coins is to find out if an insurance policy
covers coins stored in a hotel's safe-deposit
"Insurance for such storage isn't particularly
expensive, but you need to ask for it," Travers
He also suggests storing proofs of purchase
separately from the coins.
One collector, writing online at
shares the method of documentation he uses that
gives him "the ability to appreciate" his
collection "while providing optimal security."
After receiving a coin, it is photographed,
weighed and measured, and the results are posted
in his gallery as well as a notation to the
Ancient Assistant Inventory software (available
at the site).
He then prints out the inventory sheet and
places it in a clear plastic three-ring binder
sheet with associated invoice or other purchase
materials, and stores the sheet in a binder. The
binder is then placed in a fireproof document
safe with other important papers. He also
switches the coin flip out for archival Mylar
type SAFlips. Finally, the coin is taken to the
bank and placed in a safe-deposit box.
The North American Collectibles Association also
provides insurance for its members. Barbara
Wingo, an NACA spokeswoman, notes that most NACA
members are investors, rather than collectors.
According to Wingo, collectors tend to prefer to
"play" with their collections, while investor
collections are stored. With that in mind, NACA
offers an affordable online shipping program.
Separate policies are available to dealers.
Codrington said a dealer is defined as someone
whose primary income is derived from buying and
selling coins; an eBay Power Seller; an
individual who has a table at any show; or
someone who sells coins through a Web site.