Insurance is mostly about guarding against unusual losses to life's everyday essentials — from your home or car to your health. But some folks have more at stake than the essentials, from art collections or exotic autos to deeply sentimental items.
One of the challenges of underwriting such unusual possessions is estimating their value, says Arch E. Trimble IV, director of strategic relationships for RSS Insurance in Chattanooga.
"You have to have a professional appraiser come in," he says. "Generally when you're talking about a substantial collection, it's hard to find someone qualified to handle that much stuff."
Trimble has among his clients a collector who has gathered items as varied as the old soda fountains from the Loveman's downtown lunch counter to an entire hardware store — which he kept just as he found it.
"When they cleaned out Loveman's, he went in and bought a lot of the hardware," Trimble says. "He bought a hardware store in Middle Tennessee and shut it down and kept everything on the shelves.
"He's a history buff, and he didn't want a thing like that to go to waste."
RSS also wrote the coverage for a large collection of Civil War artifacts, Trimble adds.
"Uniforms, swords, rifles, anything and everything pertinent to the war," he says. "You get some quirky stuff. It's amazing what people will spend money on in their free time, and they want to protect it."
Trimble has done a lot of work with nonprofit organizations and churches, and helped a local synagogue have a large collection of religious items appraised and insured.
"They had pre-World War II Torahs, statues and Jewish artwork that was saved from the Nazis in the '30s," he says.
RSS also specializes in insuring businesses that are a bit out of the ordinary, such as heavy industry and manufacturing, Trimble says.
"It takes some experience in the game to get those contracts," he says. "It's a little more in-depth than writing a law firm."
Trimble's RSS colleague Kyle Stephens, a client executive, recently did the legwork to underwrite a roller skate manufacturer.
"The biggest sticking point is product liability," Stephens says. "If a seam tears, if glue comes undone, if someone falls, they could sure the manufacturer."
He has recently spent time figuring out the details of how to cover a mirror manufacturer in Maryville, Tennessee. Stephens says, And he has a client — a dentist — who has invented a three-headed toothbrush, and was on the market for product liability coverage, Stephens adds.
"He sells them on Amazon," he says.
At Rock Creek Insurance, owner Christina Nuar has a client whose unusual collection requires regular replenishment and re-evaluation.
"He has a very expensive wine collection," Nuar says. "That's a tricky one because as wine ages it changes in value, so it's something he has to assess every couple of years."
But her client isn't just a collector — he also drinks the wine, Nuar adds, and that changes the mix, as well.
"He gets them reappraised, and he also has to re-evaluate his inventory," she says. "It's ever-changing. At least once a year we have a discussion about it."
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