Fine Art and Specie: Why having a valuation for your art collection is important



11 April 2022

For the insurance of artworks, valuations are very important.

The best situation for both the collector or the institution buying insurance and the insurance company is to have a valuation (a list of the items and the values for each piece) and to refer to this valuation in the insurance contract.

This means that as a client you know what value you wish to receive if something is stolen or completely destroyed and your insurers have noted this valuation exists. This means it will be much quicker to resolve a claim because the value of the item has been agreed by everyone in advance. Insurers normally charge a lower rate if you have a valuation rather than insuring an unspecified total amount so there may also be a cost saving on your insurance.

In our experience, insurers are normally happy to use the level of valuation the client prefers, as long as it is clear for both parties what has been done and why. For example, depending on the client’s circumstances and attitude to risk, the client may wish to use low auction estimates for their insurance values or replacement cost at a top art dealer.

Often privacy of information is very important for clients and they ask if insurers will insist on seeing the valuation. If a client does not wish to release a valuation to insurers, sometimes insurers are able to note that there is a valuation, who has done the valuation and the date so insurers only need to see the valuation in the event of a claim.

If there has not been a valuation noted as part of the insurance, in the event of a claim, insurers are likely to ask a client to prove the value of the item which has been stolen or destroyed. Although it is possible to do this, it is additional work to provide information to explain the value of what you have lost, at what is likely to be a stressful time. You would need to research auction records to see what similar items have sold for and try to find any old records – maybe original purchase price information or previous valuations to justify the value.

It can be very difficult to keep track of the total values of a collection – for example if there are inherited pieces, new purchases and a number of homes. In the course of researching the price of a stolen item with without a valuation, you could find that the total value which you have been insuring your collection for is insufficient and this could cause problems for your claim.

If something is partially destroyed, if you have a specialist fine art insurance, insurers will normally pay the cost of repair plus the depreciation in value of the piece as a result of the claim. Normally the cost of repair is relatively low, even for a very expensive artwork, but the depreciation in value claim as a result of the damage can be very large. For example Howden worked on a claim for 2 old master pictures which fell from the wall. The cost of repair was EUR 6,000 but insurers also paid for loss in value claim as a result of the damage for EUR 100,000. Again, having a valuation was useful because the original valuer was able to help assess the loss in value as a result of the damage.

It is definitely best to have a valuation for your artworks for the insurance if possible. Howden can suggest valuers who may be able to help you if required.


Annabel Brownhill

Divisional Director, Fine Art and Specie

+44 (0)20 3435 6345

+44 (0)7930 304 192

[email protected]