Just like any long-time player of the game, my jaw drops at the prices of Magic cards over the last few years. Those dual lands we played with unsleeved in middle school (yes, we were young and didn’t know better) suddenly cost enough to equal car payments. When did that happen?
Now I look around me at tournaments, and I can’t help but think about how some players are carrying collections worth tens of thousands of dollars. It is insane to me how much valuable property is present at any Magic event and how little most players know about protecting their investments.
It makes me realize how much damage an unscrupulous individual can do. Think about how easy it is to swipe cards or decks off the table, or to mug someone outside an event and steal cards, or break into a car without a second thought.
Do you know what’s more frightening than that? The fact that players know so little about protecting their cards. “Oh I’m covered!,” they say or, “LOL insurance! Who cares?” Then the minute these players experience the unthinkable, they suddenly are lost and without direction. I believe it’s time we start to think about how to secure our cards and to do so the same way our parents think about insuring jewelry. That’s where I can share some sound advice.
As a lifelong gamer and insurance industry veteran, this is an area where I can be of service to the Magic community. In this article, I’m going to talk about what to do if your collectibles are stolen, and then I’ll talk about how insurance works and how to go about making sure that you find a policy that is right for you.
First, let’s talk about what to do if some of your cards are stolen. When you experience a loss, you should notify the police. This may sound incredibly obvious, but you would be surprised to know how often people don’t submit a police report. The police will not come out to the scene in most cases, so you likely will be filing the report online, but make sure to do it. It’s a quick and easy process. Just search for your local police department and follow the instructions for reporting a theft. You’ll be given a case number when you finish, which you should keep handy.
Next, you’ll want to contact game stores and pawn shops in the area. Reach out to as many as you can find and give them a detailed description of what was stolen. This is the primary way that stolen collections are recovered. So the more stores you notify, the better. If your area has a local Magic Facebook page, reach out to its followers, too.
Although all of these actions are good practices, the grim reality is that the vast majority of stolen cards and collections are not recovered. The police often aren’t motivated to do more than take a report unless they catch the thieves on camera—usually when they are trying to sell the cards to stores. So you probably are going to take these matters into your own hands. No, I’m not recommending vigilante justice, as tempting as that might be in the heat of the moment. I’m talking about something even more effective—insurance. Insurance is your best pre-game strategy. It helps you to hedge against misfortune. Simply put, it’s protecting your collection.
So let’s talk more about how to utilize insurance in safeguarding your cardboard. First, know that you have some options on what sort of policy to buy. One of those options is not an auto insurance policy, which is never going to cover the value of your cards if they are stolen from your car, so don’t count on that approach to offset your risk. Although it seems counter-intuitive, auto policies are usually written to only cover the car itself and permanently attached equipment. Under those circumstances, it obviously would not reimburse you for your collectibles.
Instead, the proper place to start is with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. This is where the situation gets a bit complicated, but you need to understand your policy by reading it thoroughly (take a deep breath now…) before you take any other action. This is hardly an earth-shattering suggestion, but very few people do it. Specifically, you will need to read “Section C” or “Coverage C” of your policy, which discusses protection of contents. As a quick aside, most of these policies exclude property of roomers or boarders, so if you are renting from someone else, don’t count on their insurance policy to save the day for you. You’ll need to look into getting your own coverage if this is your situation.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Greg, reading my policy is so boring! I’d rather read the Magic ‘Comprehensive Rules’ for fun!” That’s fair enough, but if you only have time to go over one section of your policy, then make sure to read the limitations regarding the contents section, specifically as it relates to collectibles. For example, on my policy, collectibles have a maximum limit of $2,500. That may not seem bad initially, but it’s not going to come close to covering a typical Magic collection.
If your policy limits coverage to a total that is less than the value of your collection, you’ll need to look beyond the basic policy to insure the estimated value of your collection. You may decide to switch to another homeowner’s/renter’s policy that does not have these limitations. If you go that route, an HO5 policy probably is your best bet. This type of homeowner’s policy offers broader coverage and has fewer exclusions and limitations. It’s also more expensive, so once again, be sure to read the policy before you buy it and be clear on what it covers. You can also ask an agent/broker, but keep in mind that they are motivated to sell you a policy. A quality agent will answer honestly, but some agents just will tell you what they think you want to hear. There really is no substitute for reading the details of the policy yourself!
There is another option, however, and this is the one I personally have used—collectibles’ insurance. You may not realize that you can insure anything! With the meteoric rise of the value of Magic cards, it seems crazy to me that insuring these collectibles isn’t discussed more often. A quick online search can help you find companies that provide this type of insurance.
If you’re going to purchase a collectibles’ policy, there are a couple of things you need to know. First, determine how much insurance coverage you need to buy to adequately protect your collection. Most collectibles’ policies have a limit on how much they will pay per loss, so you want to make sure that you insure the appropriate value of your entire collection, plus about 10 percent to allow for its increased value over time.
The mistake you are most likely to make is to undervalue your collection. Based on my personal experience, my estimated value was off by 300 percent! No, I’m not exaggerating here, and I work with insurance! At a minimum, you need to look up the median value of your most valuable cards. The truth is that an insurance company is going to value your collection much higher. This is because most policies work off of replacement cost, which is the cost of replacing your collection if you have to go out and buy it again. If your collection wasn’t increasing in value, estimating the amount of insurance coverage required would be easier, but Magic collections do become increasingly more valuable, so you need to have insurance based on their future anticipated cost.
This becomes more complicated with bulk cards because stores and dealers generally will not buy them individually. Fortunately, the appropriate insurance policy will pay the replacement cost for all of those Razor Golems and Enfeeblements.
Now it may seem like too much effort, but I documented every card I had. I don’t actually recommend that you take this approach. Instead, just count up the cards/decks you use and your most prized collectible items. Purchase insurance equal to that total value, plus 10 percent. Even with this approach, it’s still very likely that you will undervalue your collection, so make sure to take the time to determine the price of the cards you treasure the most.
Then, you will need to document your collection. The easiest way to do this is to take a picture of your most valuable cards/collectibles and send copies to your insurance company, maintaining another copy for yourself. I have my most valuable cards documented on a cloud-based system, and I update it every time I acquire or sell cards or other items. For particularly valuable cards, you also should include pictures of the back of the card.
Speaking of valuable cards, another option is to insure your collection based on its current value, which is called scheduling. This is the process muggles often use to insure their jewelry. Scheduling an item involves setting a specified amount that the item is worth and insuring it for exactly that amount. This is a better option for individually valuable cards, such as power, black-boarded duals, rare misprints, etc. Most of these insurance policies have appraisal clauses that require you to get your collection appraised every year so that the insured value remains consistent with the current market. Even when the policy does not include that type of clause, you should still do this annually—it’s frightening how quickly cards are increasing in value! I know this is a lot of work, and it may seem to be a hassle, but this practice will be worth all the effort if the unthinkable happens to you.
I’ll close by sharing a brief anecdote, so you’ll realize even the insurance guy was still embarrassingly unprepared to deal with this situation. I was at a Grand Prix some years back and had just finished a Legacy side-event with Jund. I placed the deck on a nearby table and turned to talk to a friend for no more than 15 to 20 seconds. When I turned back to collect my deck, it was gone! That was all it took, and I never saw it again.
After filing a police report and checking with the event coordinator, I reviewed my homeowner’s policy and learned that it had a limit of $2,500 for collectibles. Uh-oh! This version of Jund was fairly stripped down, but it was still worth almost $2,500 five to six years ago.
I also hadn’t documented my collection at all, so I had no obvious way to prove my claim. Luckily, there was a video feature match of me playing the deck, so I linked my insurance company to that video, which was enough for the insurer to pay the claim. In short, I got lucky! My hope is that you don’t have to worry and pray like I did. Instead, you can have a plan and spring immediately into action once the initial shock wears off.
By writing this article, I hope that I have helped you become more knowledgeable about insuring your Magic cards. At the very least, marinate on this idea for a bit and really think about the best way to utilize the resources that exist that can give you peace of mind. It doesn’t matter how careful you are. You always are at risk of running into misfortune. So if you do get unlucky, be ready and have a plan that protects your collection.
- Get a homeowner’s/renter’s policy.
- Read it for limitations/exclusions on the policy.
- Purchase a collectibles’ policy to fill in the gaps.
- Document your cards/other collectibles.
P.S. I’ll try to be available to answer questions included in the comments, but my goal is for this article to be a resource that people can point to if they have questions on this topic.