Collectibles Insurance is One of The Ephemera
Society of America's
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
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
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
"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