Few people would buy a house without insuring it and you can’t even legally drive your car without coverage, yet it’s not uncommon to see valuable art collections left financially unprotected.

Big mistake, experts say, not least because those fabulous paintings and sculptures you’re so proud of might even be worth more than your other valuables combined.

Dorit Straus, worldwide fine art insurance manager at Chubb, says often the biggest thing which catches art owners off-guard is realizing just how much their collections are worth. “I think if today many collectors did discuss their collections with an appraiser, they would realize their art assets exceed their other types of assets. For the cost of pennies per $100 you are protecting assets in the millions,” Straus said.

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While people often think theft is the biggest risk to their art, Straus says the major causes of loss tend to be more mundane things like fire, water damage and bumps and bruises from being handled.

Make a Luxury List

The key to knowing when and how to insure your art is to make a list of your items, find an independent insurance broker and start with an appraisal. A skilled appraiser will not only confirm the value of any art you may have but also help you prioritize what needs coverage first—your framed Picasso sketch might be far smaller in stature than the two-metre tall cast-iron sculpture in your foyer but its value—and chance of being damaged—might be much bigger.

…a homeowner’s policy is not the appropriate place to cover art because home insurance tends to have limits on high-value items so you are unlikely to receive even close to the value of your artwork in the event of a loss.

Kevin Solomon, an insurance advisor with Leipsic Private Risk Managements in Winnipeg, Manitoba says experienced art insurers can give you valuable advice on all the physical aspects of art ownership like storage, transport and caretaking while also understanding your financial needs.

“Specialty art insurers help with risk management and wealth preservation. They know about protection, they have warehouses to store art. As client-facing advisors, we get support from the insurers,” Solomon said.

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Insurers will often conduct a basic vulnerability assessment to help in determining your policy rates. Art which hangs on a wall in a high-security condo that is your primary residence is likely to be much safer, and therefore cheaper to protect, than a similar piece stored in a damp basement of a summer house located 20 minutes from the nearest fire station.

If you have region-specific art, make sure to get it appraised by experts who specialize in that region. “It’s important to have the valuation done by regional experts because the local marketplace determines demand and value. Group of Seven paintings, for example, will tend to be valued more appropriately by Canadian appraisers,” Straus said.

Types of Luxury Policies

If you have art of significant value, a homeowner’s policy is not the appropriate place to cover it because home insurance tends to have limits on high-value items so you are unlikely to receive even close to the value of your artwork in the event of a loss.

Katja Zigerlig, vice-president of art, wine and jewelry insurance for North America at Chartis says home policies typically only cover contents up to 50%-70% of the home’s value and are intended for basic contents—not the $50,000 ceramic vase in your living room. She suggets separate fine art insurance and for that you’ll have to pick a scheduled or blanket policy.

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A scheduled policy involves documenting every item you wish to cover and its value then adding the total up to create your policy. This policy is ideal for any collection that has items of significant value you wish to cover individually and you can tweak your coverage accordingly.