How Secure Is Your Collection?

Posted on 10/11/2012

After nearly 30 years of feeling safe and becoming a bit lax, I knew it was time to tighten the ship!

I find it a bit awkward writing about a subject that I am not an expert on. Unfortunately, in the last two weeks my knowledge on the subject of security has increased tremendously. For the first time in nearly 35 years of business, I was the victim of a burglary. The robbery was a huge wake up call! I frankly had become lax and suffered the consequences. The good news is that I learned a great deal about how to protect myself in the future. I also became familiar with the fine print of my insurance coverage. Sometimes the best learned lessons are the hard ones. In the next few paragraphs I will share my recent experience and try to give you ideas on how to protect yourself in the dangerous world we live in.

On September 17th, I received a call on my home line around 6:00 a.m. No one ever calls my home line anymore, so this immediately raised concern. The call was from ADT security reporting that four motion detectors and a glass break alarm had been activated at my office. The operator wanted to know if she should call the police. This was one of the first things that I learned about how the security world works these days. Because of local false alarm ordinances around the country, the client now has to make the decision to call the police. Unfortunately, this wastes precious time, but that is how it works. Your alarm company might have to make 4 or 5 calls to reach someone to authorize calling the police. Critical advice: Make sure your call lists are up to date, everyone knows that they may be called and what they will be asked. I’ll explain in more detail later, but remember time is critical.

For some reason I knew this was not a false alarm and immediately told the operator to call the police and that I was on my way. I was delayed, however, because the operator needs to know the make of your car and a description so that the police do not confuse you with the bad guys. I dressed as quickly as possible and was out the door. When I arrived two police officers were walking around my building. I own a two–story office building and my business is on the second floor. The police were told there was an alarm call from my address, but did not mention that the business was located on the second floor. Here’s more great advice: Make sure the alarm company knows your exact address and details of the building. At this point no one knew if there had been a robbery or if it was a false alarm. I unlocked the front door and the police entered with me close behind. Once I was a few steps inside the office, I saw the sickening sight of my show cases smashed and everything removed. The police then had to exit the building and wait for back up in case the perpetrator was still in the building. After another 5–10 minutes, back up arrived and the police did a quick sweep of the office. This was the worst part of the experience for me: knowing my office had been robbed, but having to wait outside for 10-15 minutes to find how bad the situation really was. A lot goes through your mind in that time. You do a quick mental inventory of what could have been taken and then you start thinking of who could have been so brazen to break into your office. Talk about stress!

After a few minutes I was allowed to enter the office and direct the police around the space to survey the damage. After agonizing minutes of thinking the worst, I was somewhat relieved to find out that it was a “smash–and–grab” robbery. The bad guy knew what he was after and only damaged the cases that contained the items that were stolen. The front door had not been damaged and I could not figure out how the office was violated. As mentioned earlier, my office is located on the second floor, and there is no elevator. I do, however, have a second–floor balcony by my office with a door to the outside. We soon discovered that the robber had used an extension ladder to scale the building gaining access to the outside balcony and then drilled the lock to enter my office. Pretty brazen stuff for a smash–and–grab burglary. This also leads one to the conclusion that the criminal had somehow cased the office in advance. This all adds to the misery of being robbed. You know that someone you have had contact with is a criminal which now makes everyone a suspect! I never realized the mental damage that goes along with being the victim of a crime.

The police who responded that morning were very professional and did a good job. They made sure I was safe and made careful notes of the event. An hour later I was left to clean up the mess and to start making plans to ensure this does not happen again. My poor father, who is 74, was still on my alarm call list (see advice above) and showed up around 6:30 a.m. to make sure I was ok. My wife was also very upset with that early morning phone call. Fortunately, I called her quickly to make sure she knew that we were safe.

Getting back to normal after something like this takes time. The next two days were consumed by calls to the insurance company, police, alarm company and various contractors. After nearly 30 years of feeling safe and becoming a bit lax, I knew it was time to tighten the ship!

The biggest lesson I learned from my robbery is the danger of leaving anything of value outside of a safe. The police told me that smash–and-grab robberies have become much more common. People are more desperate and willing to steal. Some are addicted to drugs and need cash to feed their habits. Others simply know that if they smash into someplace with valuables, steal as much as possible in less than two minutes, the police are unlikely to arrive before they have escaped. Do not leave valuables around for the taking! If possible, store your coins in a safe of some kind. Better yet, put them in your bank safe deposit box. Most people are the victims of their own carelessness.

Another lesson I learned was to be more “low key” about what we do. No need for the pizza delivery guy to know you have rare coins in your office. Do not spread the word in your community about your interest in rare coins. Talking about your collecting interest can spread quickly and could end up being told to the wrong person. I am not endorsing paranoia, but caution should be exercised based on the recent increases of numismatic crimes. Maybe you should consider having numismatic periodicals delivered to a PO Box. Anything to keep people from knowing about your collecting activities is urged.

Most professional dealers carry numismatic insurance of some kind. I have been paying for theft insurance for over 30 years without a claim. To be honest, I have usually just signed the contract and sent along a check. It was not until my robbery that I really read through my policy. My deductible was higher than I anticipated and there were other surprises. An insurance contract is complicated and full of fine print. I’m truly blessed that I was covered for the robbery. However, after going through one, I will be making changes to my policy. I am adding higher coverage limits, lower deductibles, etc. Many collectors do not have specific numismatic insurance. Many think that their homeowner’s policy will cover them. Hint: In most cases, it probably won’t! I strongly urge everyone to review their insurance needs. If you already have insurance, know exactly what coverage you have. For those without insurance, try checking with your current agent or contact the ANA for advice. They have companies that work with the ANA membership to insure rare coins. Rare coin insurance can be expensive, but the peace of mind it offers is priceless.

I wish I could offer more detailed advice on how to protect your rare coin collection. As I stated at the beginning of this article, I am not a security expert. I have learned many lessons on the subject in the last few weeks. Bottom line: Better to be safe than sorry! Hopefully, some of the advice given in this article will be helpful and make everyone more aware of the dangers lurking in our hobby.

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Jeff Garrett bio

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