Collectibles Insurance is One of The Ephemera Society of America's
Corporate Supporters

Ask your ordinary property and casualty insurance agent about covering your collection of 250,000 trade cards and you're likely to get a dismissive grunt or a request for enough paperwork to kill a small forest.

On the other hand, Dan Walker, owner of Collectibles Insurance Agency and a generous Corporate Supporter of the Society, is likely to say: "Sure. How much coverage do you need?"

Run of the mill insurance agents know about as much about ephemera as ephemera collectors know about insurance, and that's what scares them. They worry about being taken to the cleaners for claims on items they know nothing about. So they either require volumes of detailed documentation, or they charge an arm and a leg.

Walker, on the other hand, is a Maryland-based collector who personally visits 35 shows a year and spends hours and hours talking to fellow collectors as he collects background on their specialties. Collectibles knowledge is what gives Walker the confidence to insure collections away from which others shy.

"You really have to be a collector to be in this business," Walker says. "You have to enjoy going to shows, talking to collectors, and learning about what various items are worth.

"We do things differently than your regular homeowners insurance agent. With our policies, there aren't a lot of 'gotcha' clauses. Regular insurers want an itemized list of everything you want insured, along with receipts for everything you claim. For ephemera collectors or dealers with so many items and a stock that turns quickly, that's a real burden."

Even if you do have backup information, chances are any losses still won't be covered. Walker recalls the owner of an early Batman comic book worth, at the time, only $15,000 who waited for months before the insurance company covered his loss — in this case, the original cover price of the comic, five cents.

"Ephemera dealers and collectors need to understand that traditional insurance probably won't cover their loss," Walkers says. "Even if you have a specialized rider or endorsement, documenting things that were lost can still make it difficult to collect. And if you're sending ephemera away, you have to understand that shipping companies generally don't cover such losses, either. The U.S. Postal Service may, but you've got to be able to prove the value of what you've lost."

All Walker requires is a brief one-line description for any item valued at more than $5,000. And that's true whether it's Native American artifacts, ephemera, or perhaps an Enigma machine from a World War II German submarine. You also have to understand what's valuable and what's not.
"In this business, really only two things determine value," Walker claims, "demand and supply. Many people think if they have something unique, then it's also valuable. The problem is, if Dan Walker likes something, but no one else cares about it, regardless of how unique it is, it isn't worth much."

With a long history of collecting, and a wide circle of contacts in a variety of collecting fields, Walker either knows what most items or worth, or has the global contacts to find out. He's still not too worried, however, because collectors in general, he says, are an honest bunch. Yes, he has encountered fraud before, but only in a tiny fraction of losses.

Take the collector who claimed to have lost valuable inventory to a gun-toting robber. The collector even went so far as to shoot himself in a fleshy part of the arm with a revolver, but was caught and went to prison. Walker recalls another dealer who filed a fraudulent claim, was caught, and convicted. Although he wasn't sentenced to confinement, his conviction drove people away from his business and he filed for bankruptcy.

Theft, it turns out, is not what concerns Walker the most. Weather-related losses from tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes are increasing as criminal losses decline. Part of the reason, he says, is that the Internet has made it more difficult to dispose of ephemera and other collectibles without detection, while there is little that can be done about the weather.

Walker's own collecting interests are as eclectic as his 19,000 customers. He started out as a stamp collector, but he has three towering stacks of fire insurance memorabilia that he hasn't had a chance to catalogue yet. He's also interested in 78 rpm records, toys, and Barbie dolls. He has 4,000 postcards from China, as well as postcards from Valhalla and White Plains, NY. His real love, right now, is postage stamps from India's feudal states dating from 1866 to 1948 when India gained its independence. Some of those stamps Walker describes as "primitive and ugly — little pieces of paper with chicken scratches on them." The stamps come from places with names like Nawanagar. And while some of them were only used locally, others were used throughout India and sometimes on international mail. He has so much knowledge about these stamps that he's served as a judge for international stamp shows in India.

One way Walker keeps abreast of knowledge and price trends is by joining collecting organizations. Right now he's a member of about 35 different organizations based around collecting particular items. He's also a member of the Ephemera Society, as well as being a Corporate Supporter.

"I'm a believer in organized collectibles," Walker says. "I belong to many organizations and I believe in helping them out. The ESA wanted to do some things beyond what membership income would allow. The money was being used for good things and I wanted to help them out."

But the Collectibles Insurance Agency has exhibited double-digit growth and Walker says his support of the ESA has definitely contributed to that growth. "It's just one of the things I do to bring in business.

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America