How To Organize Your Collection

Documenting your antiques and collectibles

Documenting your antiques and collectibles properly is very important.  I highly recommend taking the time to do this no matter how small or large your collection is. This will save you a lot of time and hassle. When you make an insurance claim for antiques and collectibles most insurance companies will have an appraisal done. They will usually hire an outside appraiser to come in and appraise your items. If your items are destroyed in the disaster the appraiser will have a difficult time getting an accurate value of your items if you do not have proper documentation. Your documentation may be the only thing the appraiser has to authenticate your claim.

Video taping your antiques and collectibles

Video taping is a great way to document your antiques and collectibles. The best way to do this is to video tape the item from every angle; top, bottom, sides, front, back and inside. Also include a full room shot of your antiques and collectibles. Spend at least 3 seconds per angle. Try to hold the camera still while taping your items. Make sure to clearly tape any serial numbers, markings, signatures, damage or repairs. These markings will help the appraiser authenticate, date and value your items.

Itemized list of your antiques and collectibles

You should also have an itemized list of your antiques and collectibles. This can be hand written or typed. Include the following information:

  • The date you bought the item
  • The amount you paid for the item
  • Any serial numbers, marking, or signatures
  • Damage or repairs the item may have
  • Information about the item i.e. date it was made, where it was made, what it was made of, has it been in the family and for how long
  • Past appraisals, estimates of value or valuations you many have had done
  • Detailed Description of the item
  • Other information you think would be helpful to the appraiser

Photographing your antiques and collectibles  

You can document your antiques and collectibles with still or digital photographs. When photographing your antiques take pictures from all angles; top, bottom, sides, front, back and inside the item. Take several clear photographs. Remember to document any serial numbers, marking, signatures, damage or repairs. If you take digital photographs of your antiques and collectibles save these to a disk or off site location (one simple way to store the images off site is to use an internet photo storage site such as Photobucket, Amazon’s S3).

After you have documented your antiques and collectibles you will want to make sure this information is safe and accessible in the event of a disaster. In the next section of this article I have talked about how to safely store your documentation.

Safely storing your documentation

This is as important as documenting your antiques and collectibles properly. You don’t want all your hard work of documenting your items lost in the same disaster.

Use the following suggestions to store your documentation safely:

  • Store your documentation off site. Here are a few good suggestions for storing your information:
  • Safety deposit box (remember to store the key outside of your house, keys can get lost or forgotten when you are in a hurry)
  • Digitally; you can use an online storage site, external hard drive located outside the house, off site network, or on a cd/dvd stored out side the house
  • Give a copy to a trusted family member or friend. Make sure that this friend lives some distance from your location. It is not a good idea to store the information at a neighbor’s house, there is a chance that the same disaster may strike their house too. Fires, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters will affect large areas.
  • Keep a copy of the information at work.
  • Email a copy of the information to yourself. This works best if the file is under 10MB

If you have a large collection of antiques and collectibles I would recommend hiring an appraiser to help you document your collection. Most appraisers offer this service at an hourly rate.