How to Create a Home Inventory to Protect Your Valuables

Returning home to find that someone has broken into and defiled your sacred and private spaces? It’s a life-changing moment. Having even sentimental things taken is a harrowing and disturbing experience, but after the shock owners need to establish as quickly as possible exactly what was stolen.

Remembering the exact Samsung 50-inch flatscreen model is one thing, but what if you have out-of-the-ordinary vintage pieces or one-of-a-kind pieces that are really close to unique? What year was this 1950s Martin guitar? Was this mid-century print so valuable? Could you convincingly describe the small bronze sculpture to your insurance company or the Gardai if it were stolen?

Doing a detailed and very specific inventory to include paintings, interesting antique furniture, jewelry and even modest collections of items that may have unexpected value – it’s a quick and easy process and something you can do. times per piece, largely file and forget.

With a complete written and visual record at hand, we increase the chances of a positive outcome after a break-in or damaging event – replacement, refund or even recovery of the thing.

Visual recording

For your general content, a smartphone video (update it every couple of years) can go through most of your household items inside and out.

Clip each piece to make it easier to find the items, and verbally describe what you’re looking at while filming, including the brand, model, or serial number of the electronics.

Open presses and drawers as you go. If you know when you bought this item or have the receipt, include this detail – it can all help you claim disaster compensation. File these video clips in a logical place.

Expensive parts should already be listed in your insurance as high value for their full replacement cost (what they would charge in the market today) and not just thrown away with general contents ballast. This may result in more coverage charges on the policy.

It’s important to know exactly what you expect to get back if the items have been stolen or destroyed, so check your policy very carefully.

As you review the documents, make sure that the stipulated security measures match the specifications of your locks, alarms, etc., otherwise the claim could be considered invalid.

A professional appraisal is a fantastic addition for valuable coins, and once the person is considered a specialist in their field (with professional accreditation), most insurance companies will be happy to settle acceptable claims in based on their assessment.

The valuation they provide should be updated approximately every five years to keep up with the ups and downs in market values. Request a photographic record as part of the service if you prefer someone else to take the pictures.

To do your own inventory, first identify what you want to detail, and start with a complete, written/typed description. What is that? Describe it in one sentence.

If you have a receipt or provenance for the piece, including an auction, sales catalog, or old appraisal, be sure to keep it with your file. Note the material. If it is wood, what kind of wood is it? For a painting, is it an oil, a pastel, a watercolour? Measure the room in centimeters. For paintings, measure both the frame and the picture inside the frame.

Identifying features

Now look for identifying marks and features. These can be maker’s marks on the base of a ceramic or a signature on a work of art.

Flip over any framed piece and look for gallery/exhibition stickers, scribbled notes, anything that might be part of the provenance. If you know who made or created the piece, even if it’s not established, write it down.

Glass, for example, often bears no markings, but can be identified by photographs in relation to the works of that house or that individual designer. If you know the date or period of the article, write that down too – every shred of information counts.

Then photograph each piece, preferably against a neutral background. North-facing light usually gives a nice wash of shadow-free light, and most cell phones are sufficient for this task. For illustrations, shoot from all sides, to include the back of any frame. Where there are marks, ridges and inscriptions, for example, shoot them with a macro setting.

If desired, take a tape and unroll it to record the key measurements of your image. If there are defects, damages, or repairs unique to the item, include those as well.

Images should be crystal clear, so keep them as a digital record or high-resolution physical copies that show the intricate details of your property.

You can scan the complete recording if you prefer to a smart folder, or even put it securely in the cloud, for example with DropBox or Google Drive. At home, regularly back up your recordings to a completely separate drive for peace of mind. Working hard, primary drives can and will kill without warning.

UV marks

Putting new markings on the item is a popular way to help police find and identify stolen property. This is done with a standard UV marker on an inconspicuous part of a larger piece (it would be crazy to trace something on a Netsuke). For top drawer stuff – get advice. Never, ever bring a marking device of any kind onto canvas or paper artwork or transitory materials – it will bleed and damage fragile materials.

Stamping machines are generally not suitable for antiques and household valuables (otherwise fantastic for things like car trailers, try propertymarking.ie). If not, you just need to put something like a harmless little mark on it on an inconspicuous area – say your Eircode or your initials.

Furniture is best marked from below – say somewhere on the frame or on the underside of a table. The thing is to have a record of what you put in it. When an investigator passes over objects with blue light, the specific UV signature comes to life.