There is a worldwide improvement in prosperity, focused on emerging countries. This translates into increased disposable income for a broader segment of the population.  With close to 3 billion people connected to the Internet and a billion new users expected for 2012, on-line sales have made auction items easily accessible to the global marketplace.

While old economies are struggling, growth is accelerating in the BRIC countries. The four BRIC -Brazil, Russia, India, and China – have enjoyed much stronger economic expansion than the developed countries. China has emerged as the world’s strongest art marketplace over the past two years. Therefore it is no surprise that the two leading artists ranked by auction revenue sales are Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian of China, dethroning the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.


Due to the increased number of global buyers, tastes and desires have broadened. Many objects in an American household may have escalated in value and owners may not be aware or adequately insured. For example, in 2002 a 19th century Chinese white jade snuff bottle sold at auction for  $600. This month, a similar Chinese snuff bottle (2 ¼ inches high) sold for $7,500. Chinese objects are not the only items to have increased in value.  In 1992, a pair of Georg Jensen sterling five-light ‘Grape’ pattern candelabras sold for $22,000 and last year a similar pair sold at auction for $62,500.  The value of fine art and antiques has fluctuated tremendously over the past decade due to changes in consumer demand. Many collectors remain unaware of the value changes and as a result, their personal assets are not protected.


Typically the basic homeowners policy or renters insurance has imitations when protecting valuable personal objects.  Most people have a blanket coverage that is generally calculated as a percentage of the real estate value.  Many standard policies have limits that typically cover items valued less than $10,000. But for the more expensive objects, if you don’t have the appropriate coverage, you may be out of luck if theft or disaster occurs.   Valuable fine art, antiques, silver, jewelry and collectibles should be properly valued by a professional and scheduled on an insurance policy. The benefit of scheduling values is that all risks are covered and there are also no deductibles.  For example if a diamond bracelet is stolen, lost or destroyed, the insurance company will reimburse the owner the full amount of the appraisal value of the object and with some insurers up to 150% of the object value.  In addition, the cost to schedule is nominal and the overall price of your homeowner’s coverage may actually decline by scheduling items. To schedule your valuables, you will either need a receipt of purchase for the item or a written appraisal report from a professional appraiser.


In the past, people chose to sell due to the three D’s: Death, Divorce or Debt.  Today with the fluctuating global art markets, people should be aware of what they own and take advantage of selling when the price for their valuables is at a highpoint.  Not all objects are escalating in value: what is ‘hot’ today may not be desirable five years from now.  For instance, the French armoire was very popular through the 1980’s and ‘90’s since many Americans housed their televisions behind the beautiful carved French armoire doors.  With the advent of flat screen televisions, the demand for the French armoire in the American market has diminished and so has the price. However, French designed jewelry is very popular in today’s market. An art nouveau enamel and multi-gem butterfly brooch by Boucheron sold for $122,500 last year and in 2012, a pair of Art Deco diamond and onyx chip brooches by Cartier sold for $148,500.

In some instances, people may want to pass an art collection, antiques, jewelry or silver down to the next generation to create a wonderful legacy, but it can also be an unwanted burden. In some cases, it may be better to liquidate these assets prior to bequeathing them. At a minimum, family members should engage in a candid discussion regarding their plans for the inter-generational transfer of treasure, and the associated interest and desire that the next generation has in receiving these items. Individuals and family members should anticipate this so they understand the key estate planning aspects surrounding the retention, sale or transfer of treasure across generations.

Whether you decide to sell, donate or keep your valuable personal possessions, understand the value of your treasures. The best way to ascertain value is to have a certified appraiser or reputable dealer establish the value of the objects in your collection. With an independent appraisal of your personal possessions you have information necessary to make informed financial decisions about the care and disposition of your belongings.

Chubb sponsors Continuing Education Courses to help you to advise your clients and build relationship with wealth and financial advisors. This course will educate the wealth community on the state of the art market as well as the develop and understanding of the importance of insuring your clients’ art and antiques.

This article orginally appeared in Walters Art Museum and is republished with kind permission.