Benefits of a Collectibles Policy vs. Homeowners Policy: An Interview with Nonie Tompkins

We sat down with Distinguished Fine Art & Collectibles insurance expert, Nonie Tompkins, to discuss the benefits of a collectibles policy versus a homeowners policy. Our team is highly experienced in the fine art and collectibles markets and are here to provide you with the best coverage options to meet your clients needs. Let’s dive in.

Why should a collector have a separate policy for their collection?

A separate policy for collections is definitely a tool worth considering for both brokers and clients. Today’s homeowners market is so challenging, and I think you see a new carrier pulling out of California every week. At least, that’s how it feels right now. And it’s not just a California thing; it’s a challenge nationwide. My feedback from brokers all the time is it’s so hard to get a homeowners policy done these days.  

Brokers are utilizing tools that they never had to use before. And we’re another one of those tools. There are plenty of reasons why a client may want a separate policy for their collection. For starters, it could make things a whole lot simpler when it comes to placing the home if the collection isn’t bundled in with the homeowners policy.  

In some cases, a client wants a separate collectibles policy because they want an underwriter and a claims handler who’s an expert specifically in collectibles and who’s not also processing homeowners claims or underwriting homeowners risks.  

Distinguished is able to be flexible in the underwriting and appetite because we’ve seen this stuff before and we’re familiar with it. It’s all we do. And on the claims side, we’re adjusting claims with that eye of expertise, which a homeowners carrier may or may not do. 

There are a lot of advantages to choosing a separate art & collectibles insurance provider.  

What kind of items might my client be able to add to their separate collections policy?

When people think of collectibles insurance, they typically think of traditional fine art policies. We are absolutely a market for that. That’s the bread and butter of our business. But beyond that, we cover all kinds of collectibles.  

That can include paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs, that kind of thing. But it also can include stamps, coins, rugs, tapestries, couture, silver and silverware, rare books and manuscripts, antiques, ceramics, wine collections and whiskey collections, musical instruments, collectibles, which can include all kinds of things including comic books, trading cards, sports memorabilia. These days we’re seeing things like video games, toys, and sneakers. Also, our policy will cover frames, display equipment and the reference library as well. One thing we won’t be able to insure is standalone jewelry.

What are the coverage limitations for art and collectibles in a homeowners policy? 

There are all kinds of homeowners insurance carriers out there, and they all handle it a little bit differently. A standard homeowners is going to have a relatively restrictive limit, but you can add a scheduled property endorsement.  

In today’s insurance market, obtaining homeowners coverage can be difficult, and securing additional coverage for art and collectibles is even more so. Splitting collectibles into a separate policy simplifies matters and offers more flexibility in coverage. 

We may have a broader appetite than a homeowners carrier because we’re covering a specific piece of the property. We’re able to write in areas where other homeowners carriers may not be.  

It’s hard to say what exactly the client may have on a homeowners. But I do think that splitting the collectibles off can be a valuable option.

Does the separate policy protect collectibles in transit? 

Absolutely, yes. In most of our personal policies, we’ll provide full transit limits unless there’s some specific reason why we’ve had to restrict it. We offer full coverage for property and transit worldwide subject to packing by experienced packers. But beyond that, yeah, absolutely. We’ll cover transit. 

How would a separate collections policy value my client’s collections in the event of a loss? Is this different from a homeowners?

So, that again, is going to depend on the specific homeowners policy and how it might be valued on that homeowners policy. But I can say that for our policies, we have two options, and you can do one or the other, or a combination of the two. We offer a scheduled agreed value policy, and we have a blanket current market value policy. 

What that means is basically either the client is going to set the values at the time of submitting business for underwriting or at the time of loss. If it comes at the time of submitting business and it’s a scheduled policy, we’ll pay scheduled agreed value on that policy. In a blanket policy, that means that you have a general idea of what the collections are. We’re going to pay current market and at the time of loss, establish the value of that specific item through the claims process.  

Again, it just depends what kind of homeowners coverage your client has and what kind of coverage they may have. It’s worth reviewing depending on the client’s needs, and we’re always happy to answer any questions.

Does having a separate policy affect homeowners insurance in the case of a loss? 

We don’t expect that your homeowners carrier would either know about or make any changes to your homeowners policy based on a loss to your collections policy. They should stand alone.

What documentation is typically required to get a quote for a separate art and collectibles insurance policy? 

First of all, we’re going to review an application. We have our own application. We also accept other carrier applications and are able to review ACORD applications. But ACORDs typically result in a few extra questions.  

We also want to look at a schedule or a description of the collection, depending on what the client has. So, if they have a full schedule, list, and appraisal, we will look at them. We also review homeowners carrier schedules. Those can be sufficient for us as well if they’re coming off of the homeowners policy. 

If they don’t have a schedule or don’t want a scheduled policy, then just describe the collection. What’s the collecting philosophy? What does the client focus in? And a little bit about their collection including the highest valued works.  

We sometimes require appraisals. Appraisal requirements may vary depending on the collection and the assessment by our in-house expertise. If we think that we need some second opinion on a value, we’ll let you know. But if you have an appraisal, it’s always super helpful to review.

What are the benefits of worldwide coverage offered by some separate art and collectibles insurance policies? 

Worldwide coverage is great for clients who may need coverage for items that are in transit or temporarily in storage or on display outside the US. Depending on your client’s collection, where they’re located, and what they’re doing with their collection, this may be super valuable to them.  

Sometimes they’re purchasing things outside the US and shipping them to their home. Worldwide coverage would cover all those instances.

Does separate art and collectibles insurance offer 24/7 support for emergencies or claims assistance? 

Yes, we have an in-house claims team. They’re fantastic. And we are happy to provide support for emergencies.

Can separate art and collectibles insurance providers connect me with art restoration specialists or appraisers if needed?

We absolutely can. Yes. We maintain a network of experts and specialists in all the different types of property that we cover. We’re happy to connect you with specialists, appraisers, restoration specialists, and all these necessary services. We want to be a value add for you and our network of experts and share them with you and with your clients.

How can separate art and collectibles insurance contribute to a more comprehensive art risk management strategy? 

We have underwriting and claims specialists on our team who have only done fine art and collectibles insurance. Their resumes back this up. We’re able to answer your questions about best practices for your client, collection storage, shipping, restorations, that kind of thing.

What are the next steps to submit-quote-bind an art and collectibles insurance policy? 

The first thing to do is make sure that you’re registered with Distinguished. If you’re not registered, you can do so through our website. If you need any help, reach out to us—our contact information is on our website.  

Once registered, the next step is to submit an application to one of our underwriters or to our submission box, We can review that and take the next steps from there. We will get back to you in 24-48 hours.

About Nonie Tompkins

Nonie is the Vice President and underwriter for the Fine Art & Collectibles Program, specializing in providing tailored solutions to brokers across the Southwest and South Central regions. With six years of experience in fine art underwriting at leading carriers before joining Distinguished, Nonie’s career is defined by her passion for fine art and collectibles insurance. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and a Master’s in Museum Studies. Learn more about Nonie here.

About Distinguished Programs

Distinguished Programs is a leading national insurance Program Manager providing specialized insurance programs to brokers and agents with specific expertise in Fine Art and Collectibles, Environmental and Construction Professional, Executive Lines, Inland Marine, Real Estate & Builder’s Risk, Community Associations, Hotels, and Restaurants. Property and Liability products are distributed through a national network of agents and brokers. Serving the same core markets and partnering with the most stable and reputable carriers, Distinguished’s high-limit Umbrella programs remain the clear choice in its area of specialty for superior coverage, competitive pricing, and attentive service. Through thoughtful innovation, stemming back to 1995, Distinguished Programs fosters growth and opportunities for its brokers, carriers, and employees.

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