From time to time we are asked by our customers or others to assess the value of plush animals bearing the Jockline, Avanti, or Piutrè names. While we aren't professional appraisers, we are uniquely qualified to provide appraisals of these plush animals for insurance or other purposes. We typically do this as a courtesy for our customers, though sometimes—in the case of a collection with dozens of pieces, for example—we may charge a fee to cover the time involved in preparing a written appraisal.
A collectible plush animal, like any other collectible or antique, actually has three different values: an auction value, a retail value, and an insurance value.
The auction value, as the term suggests, is what a collectible plush animal might be expected to bring at auction. It's the value typically provided by appraisers from such auction houses as Christie's or Sotheby's and represents what a piece should sell for on the open market. An especially rare or highly desirable plush animal, however, may draw a higher-than-expected price at auction if two or more bidders are aggressively vying for it. That's why the most valuable pieces are often sold at auction. The auction value of a plush animal is usually lower than what the item would sell for in a retail setting at the time of the appraisal.
The retail value of a collectible plush animal represents the price that it would typically bring in a retail setting (either brick-and-mortar or online). The owner of a collectible plush animal shouldn't expect to realize this figure through a sale, however, because dealers can't make a profit if they pay retail value for a piece.
The insurance value of a collectible plush animal represents the best estimate of what it would cost to replace a piece should it be destroyed or stolen. An Insurance value tends to be set at the top end of retail value and is typically rendered in the form of a formal written appraisal. A good appraisal is carefully researched and frequently contains supporting documentation aimed at helping withstand any challenge that might be advanced against the appraisal.
Should you want to safeguard your investment in collectible plush animals, it's important to understand the difference between homeowners (or renters) insurance and collectibles insurance.
For starters, homeowners insurance is typically designed to cover such personal property such as furniture, home furnishings, clothing, appliances, and other such items. While most homeowners policies cover antiques and collectibles just as they do other possessions, subject to normal deductible and coverage limitations, some severely limit or exclude some or all collectibles.
Homeowners policies generally require appraisals for collections of more than $5,000 as part of the underwriting process, while collectibles policies typically do not require appraisals at the time of application.
Another important difference is that homeowners and renters policies tend to insure for actual cash value, while collectibles policies often insure the full collectible value of items in the collection. So if you rely solely on your homeowners or renters insurance to protect your collectibles, the effects of depreciation could leave you disappointed. What's more, it would be impossible to replace a high-end plush animal for what it originally sold for 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
Collectibles insurance may offer some additional benefits, including:
- Agreed-value coverage, which protects your collection for its full insured value, without depreciation, based on your description of it and what you say it's worth
- Coverage of damage caused by accidents, fire, flood, theft, hurricane, earthquake, etc.
- Automatic coverage that increases to adjust for inflation (usually up to a specified percentage annually at no additional cost)
- No requirement to pay a deductible when you make a claim (though you can opt for a deductible to save on coverage for pricier items)
- Coverage of items while they are in transit or are bring stored away from the home (such as in an office or storage facility)
- Automatic coverage of newly acquired items (typically up to 90 days)
- Claims under a collectibles policy do not affect premiums or loss history for homeowners insurance
- Companies that offer collectibles insurance are likely to have adjusters with a higher level of expertise in valuing antiques and collectibles, which can expedite the claims process and lead to a better outcome
Some insurers ask new customers for appraisals or bills of sake, regardless of the value of their collectibles, while some have a specified cap—say, $5,000 or $10,000—for agreed-value coverage.
Whichever route you take, experts advise collectors to keep detailed records of the items in their collections and to keep those records, along with photographs of the item, in a safe location.