Although cheaper than fine art shippers, insurers often warn against use of couriers for high-value items because by far the largest volume of insurance claims come not from dramatic theft or breakage on display, but during transit.
I’ve seen numerous claims from clients using couriers to send art and antiques where items have arrived cracked, scratched or with surfaces imprinted with dreaded bubble-wrap marks created by the gases in bubbles. Worse, an astonishing number of couriered items simply never arrive.
If you purchase one-off insurance via the courier you might get the cost of your item back from them after a lengthy investigation, after which your client is still without their piece.
When in the business of trading unique and irreplaceable items, however, your stock is not like other retailer’s stock and the value of the item can be less important than keeping the item itself safe.
A general courier vs an art specialist?
It’s true that specialist fine art shippers can be a more costly transport solution for art works, but there are several good reasons insurers favour them:
• staff trained and experienced in the handling of art
• bespoke packaging including flight cases or crates with mouldings, wedges and acid-free fillers
• speed and reliability including special arrangements at customs
• smaller vans with air-ride suspension, effective for protecting fragile items
New entrants to the antiques market or those with particularly tight budgets may be reluctant to buy annual specialist insurance because they fear being forced to use fine art shippers or don’t know the benefits of what they are buying.
The best solution here is to use a specialist broker. They will ensure you get a policy with a quality insurer that uses fine art loss-adjusters.
A specialist fine art insurance policy will usually still offer low-level coverage for items couriered up to a limit of, for example, £20,000- 30,000, and you will have a better chance of a no-quibble claim payment in the unfortunate event of a loss.