How Coin Collectors Battle Threat of Theft

by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley on November 30, 2012 · 15 comments

Coin Theft

Anecdotal evidence is growing that more criminals are targeting coin collections, even if they don’t always understand their true value. Consider five cases from 2012:

  • In January, police in Oregon arrested burglars who had taken a rare coin collection, the results of 100 years and several generations. News reports didn’t give the value of the collection, which weighed about 60 pounds and included some jewelry. However, they did note that the burglars didn’t realize the value of what they’d taken. They deposited the coins into a money counting machine and collected only $540 for it.

  • In May, an Annandale, VA, couple reported the theft of a coin and bank note collection worth up to $500,000 from their care. They’d just returned home from a coin show in Charlottesville and left the collection unattended for about 10 minutes, though it was hidden under a blanket.

  • In June, a Minnesota woman was charged with taking a coin collection valued only at "more than $10,000" from her mother.

  • In September, a handyman and his girlfriend were accused of taking a collection valued at $100,000 from a Vancouver, WA, woman. Her coins were kept in boxes in her garage. The thieves allegedly spent some of the coins at face value to buy pizza.

  • In November, two men were arrested in California and charged with breaking into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s residence — twice — and taking a coin collection. The men apparently smashed their way into glass doors to get to the collection.

While the exact number of coin-related burglaries is not always reported, there are some estimates of the seriousness of the problem. The Butternut Company, a private company that specializes in Civil War tours and coins, reports that one in three collections eventually will be stolen.

Collectors, of course, can take measures to combat theft. Many keep their coins, especially the most valuable ones, in a bank safe deposit box. That offers security but comes with a few downsides as well. For one, the collector’s access to his prized possessions is limited — he or she can only get to them during banking hours.

Likewise, basements, attics and garages aren’t good options either, because of varying temperature and humidity levels. Collectors also shouldn’t keep coins near the kitchen due to potential exposure to smoke and grease.

Keeping your coin collection safe is only part of the challenge.  Preparing for a possible loss is another important responsibility of any collector — and that involves securing proper insurance coverage. There are three basic options for insuring a coin collection. Consider the following:

  • Standard home insurance policies typically include coverage for a homeowners’ personal property and contents. However, policies generally include a $200 maximum for currency, including coin collections. If your coin collection is valued at $200 or less this may be enough coverage.

  • Coverage under home insurance policies can be bolstered by scheduling an endorsement onto the existing policy. This allows the collector to increase the maximum coverage for an item, such as a coin collection, so that the homeowner is properly insured.

  • Personal article floaters are separate policies, often offered by specialty companies familiar with the collectible item. A coin collector may want to purchase this policy if they want to customize their coverage and the perils that their collection is covered for. For example, this type of policy may cover a collector from a theft that occurs off of their property such as at a coin show.

Whichever type of policy a collector decides to go with, they should always make sure their collection is insured up to full value and have an appraisal performed. An inventory of the collection will help when a claim is filed. Collectors also need to revisit their coverage periodically, particularly when valuable coins are added.

The cost varies according to the collection. But with the high potential for theft, coverage should always be a consideration for a numismatic.

This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the HomeInsurance.com Blog.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

george glazener November 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm

LOL….that guy looks like Gollum.

“Coins! My Precious..!!!”

jim November 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

So it looks like a safe deposit box is their only suggestion for safety. I would also suggest getting a vault. In the end it would be cheaper than a safe deposit box(es) depending on the size of your collection.
I also looked into a rider on my home policy and found it prohibitively expensive since even collectable coins are considered as ordinary cash.

Vachon December 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Not talking about your collection to “outsiders” is helpful too and reminding those who do know about it how important it is to not talk about the fact that I’m a coin collector is a big one too. I may trust you, but I cannot say the same for those whom you know. Keep it on the QT please. I know we love our collections, but we must remain mindful that we are collecting objects which are both easily spent and sold with known values. There’s no sense in letting outsiders know you have what amounts to a pile of cash in your home.

That being said, the advice given to traveler to have a false wallet to minimize losses from theft can be applied to your collection too. Yes, you have valuable stuff, but you likely also have considerably less valuable coins/currency too. If you leave a portion of it where it would be likely found by a thief, they may be happy with what they’ve found and not ransack your house looking for more. It sucks, but you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.

Be careful revealing your knowledge base too. Put a person (real or made-up) between you and your knowledge. Suffice to say, my “brother” knows a lot about coin collecting 😉

jim December 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Vachon – Good ideas

Cincinnatus December 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Vachon – good advice and ironically I carry a fake wallet with 6 dollars (all ones)in it and fake credit cards when I travel for work – it looks real enough but no real loss.

Also if you are having people in your house to do any work – nothing laying around on your coffee table or in your book shelves should indicate you collect coins. Yes I have books but those get put away when someone has to come in to my house. As far as they know from the magazines I have laying around that I have interest that are of no value to theives.

My wife is the only one that knows the true value of my collection.

jim December 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Nobody including me knows the true value of my collection. I’ll let my heirs figure that one out.

Brian V. December 3, 2012 at 12:43 am

Be careful when and how you set up buys. Try to always meet in a neutral location. Be mindful of others watching from afar. Use your reaerview mirror and take a long out of the way drive back home. Try not to use your last name, but call yourself Benny the Coin Guy or something. Ambiguois business card ?
It’s important to instill a trust factor with a seller, just keep it simple, and offer decent buy prices for repeat biz and word of mouth to generate future deals.

RonnieBGood December 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Again my hats off to CoinNews’ improvement in online pictures associated with their articles. The photo associated with this article is priceless!

RonnieBGood December 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Bank Safety Deposit Boxes are the best choice. Look around. Some are very reasonable. Be sure to pick your space above the 100 year flood level in your area! Your SDB only downfall is if it is flooded with sea or river water!

Joe December 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Bury it .

joe coin collector December 3, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Safety deposit boxes are not always as safe as you may think. The bank that had mine closed, and even though I specifically said I wanted mine moved with others to another branch, they “accidentally” drilled into it, and someone stole $1,000 worth of silver coins. I have insurance but my brother died a week after this incident, and because I had a lot on my mind I neglicted to report the theft in time and my insurance company refused to cover the loss. Fortunately, I keep most of my stuff in my own safes…………

jim December 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

Time to sue?

RonnieBGood December 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Use this link to see how safe your bank/ safe deposit box is:

http://www.bankrate.com/rates/safe-sound/bank-ratings-search.aspx

Makoto Abe December 5, 2012 at 1:32 am

I would suggest getting a single closet sized vault or heavy duty file cabinet, unlike small safes, the theives could easily walk away with it with some help, but with a heavy closet sized cabinet it would be most unlikley that they could carry it out by hand.

george glazener December 5, 2012 at 10:52 am

all my coins are buried in my back yard right here in Springfield.!

Next door to the Flanders’

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