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Insuring sports memorabilia can be confusing

Your Sandy Koufax 1955 Topps rookie card going up in flames, a vintage game-used bat getting burglarized from your home or a package of vintage nodders getting cracked up in the mail – these are all nightmares that hobbyists hope to never have to experience. Problem is, at some point in time, you might be faced with one of these calamities that no collector likes to even think about, let alone experience.
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Your Sandy Koufax 1955 Topps rookie card going up in flames, a vintage game-used bat getting burglarized from your home or a package of vintage nodders getting cracked up in the mail – these are all nightmares that hobbyists hope to never have to experience.

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Problem is, at some point in time, you might be faced with one of these calamities that no collector likes to even think about, let alone experience.

Of course, there’s usually no amount of money that can completely replace the passion and hard work that goes into forming one’s collection. However, if a victim’s cards and memorabilia are not insured and then destroyed or stolen, the feelings that would be felt could be absolutely devastating.

That’s why insuring your collection is something you should give some real consideration to, as thousands of collectors already have. But according to various insurance experts that I talked to, not many people know the ins and outs of insuring their collections, even if they think they have a grip on the concept. Some collectors might even think their collection is already covered through current policies they have in place, but that’s not always true.

“That is the No. 1 thing we hear at shows, people who think their collection is covered by their homeowners policy,” said Anne Marie Fitzpatrick, sales director for Collectibles Insurance Services. “If you’ve got a collection that’s worth a good amount, plus all your TVs and furniture and everything, your contents may be beyond what they’re covering you for.”
Dan Sullivan, a claims adjuster of seven years and also a sports memorabilia collector, said there are even insurance sales people who don’t know exactly the best way to insure collectibles.

“There are very, very, very knowledgeable insurance agents, and some that either don’t do homeowners insurance all the time and doing something else as their specialty, or whatever other situation it may be, but some of these guys just don’t have any idea as to what they’re getting these people into,” said Sullivan.

“Most people don’t know that there are special limits in their insurance policy,” he added. “It’s probably a whole page that goes through specific items, like if you’ve got artwork, if you’ve got precious metals like a silver piece that was your great grandma’s. That’s probably somewhere in the special limits.”

In addition to sports cards and memorabilia that may fit into the “special limits” category, antiques, cash and precious metals are included. According to Sullivan, when adding these types of pieces to your homeowners insurance policy, you might have to have your item professionally appraised and itemized on the policy, and sometimes that process can be very time consuming.

That, according to Fitzpatrick, is why her company can help.

“We only require that our clients estimate the value of their collection, and for any item that is worth individually more than $5,000, we have them list those and a detailed description of those items,” said Fitzpatrick. “The vast majority of our customers are everyday folks. They probably have a little bit higher income than the average American, but tend to be everyday individuals who have a passion for something. We have policies down to just a couple thousand dollars worth of collectibles, and we have policies all the way up to multimillion dollars worth of collectibles.”

Tom Finkelmeier Sr., president of Cornell & Finkelmeier Inc., a company that has insured multiple Honus Wagner T206 cards and many other pieces of sports memorabilia, noted that after Hurricane Andrew of 1992, a lot of the homeowners carriers revised their policies to either exclude or dramatically limit sports memorabilia.

“When I say dramically limit, I mean they might include $1,000 or $2,500 in coverage or something like that,” said Finkelmeier. “That’s what a collector needs to research. To find out if they have coverage on their collections. Most of the homeowner companies that I’m familiar with across the country do not cover sports memorabilia, or don’t cover collections of that nature for a high-dollar amount.”

To get an idea of what kind of price an average policy would cost through her company, Fitzpatrick did a quote for a person from Wisconsin who wanted to insure and what they would have to pay annually (see Table I).


Also, often a collector will be faced with dealing with a third-party shipping service when sending and/receiving cards or memorabilia. Table II breaks down the companies’ different policies for insuring sports cards and memorabilia.
One thing I found very interesting is, according to the FedEx representative I spoke to, the company only covers sports memorabilia up to a declared value of $100. The representative actually told me people shipping collectibles should obtain their own insurance on their packages.

According to Fitzpatrick, whether a collector is using her company’s service or another form of insurance, make sure to keep track of everything you possibly can, such as receipts, for instance.
“At the time of claim, the collector does actually need to be able to show the adjuster that they had the items,” said Fitzpatrick. “Have records, have your collection videotaped, have pictures to be able to show the adjuster that they owned the item at one time.”

Finkelmeier agreed.

“The same as any insurance claim that you would have, the better you’re able to document your claim, the easier it is to settle your claim,” said Finkelmeier. “The nature of collecting is that you enjoy it or you wouldn’t be doing it. Most collectors keep records anyway. There’s all kinds of price guides or other things you can get. Now, with the advent of computers, people seem to maintain very good records.

Check out Chris Nerat’s blog, Gavel Chat at: Readers may reach him at or call him at (800) 726-9966, ext. 13452.

Mock policy done by Collectibles Insurance Services
(Table I)

Derek Jeter game-used bat: $8,000 value

Joe Montana signed helmet: $500 value

Brett Favre signed jersey: $300 value

Michael Jordan single-signed basketball: $800 value

Alex Rodriguez 1994 SP: $100 value

Total Value: $9,700

Fee for Wisconsin resident: $44 annually, plus a $15 policy fee. Total: $59 per year.

Shipping collectibles with a third-party carrier (Table II)

FedEx representative:
“You’d probably be best getting your own insurance when you’re shipping something very valuable. When shipping with FedEx, it puts a declared value on your package for $50,000, but extraordinary items limited to $100 declared value maximum. Sports collectibles are considered extraordinary, so you would want your own insurance on your package.”

UPS representative:
“Whatever you insure it for you have to have documentation that it is worth that. Appraisals by a reputable third-party appraiser are the best method.”

DSL representative:
“We have shipment value protection for loss or damage. For these special care items, they may be acceptable for transport and shipment value protection, provided you follow certain conditions: You must be able to provide independent proof of value or replacement upon request, the shipment must be professionally packaged and if the shipment is in excess of $10,000, it must be approved by DSL Risk Management before authorization of these items can be shipped.

USPS representative: “You can purchase insurance for anything up to a certain amount. Insurance, we provide coverage up to $5,000. Collectibles are not excluded. When filing a claim, what you would need to do is file a claim and show proof of value, such as a professional appraisal. Just to be safe, make sure you keep all records and receipts you have concerning the things you sent, including the insurance receipt.”

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