We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of our house fire. Admittedly, I’m feeling a little melancholy about it. Obviously, there are a whole bunch of different facets to going through a personal disaster, whether it’s a fire, tornado, flood, etc. Since this blog is about being a nerd, I’m going to talk about that angle. But believe me, I’m not saying that this particular topic is the most important in my mind, only that it’s what I feel like talking about here.
So what am I second guessing myself about? A couple of things. Allow me to provide some context first though. For me, being a card-carrying nerd means collecting things. I suppose there are plenty of nerds/geeks out there who don’t, but I’d bet money those folks are in a small minority.
I had many collections pre-fire. Some were massive (my comics) and some were small. I could’ve told you where I got 99% of my things. And there were many stories behind those things that were likely of interest only to me in that “you had to be there” kind of way. In all, they reflected 30+ years of my immersion in all those things that get me in the nerd clubhouse.
I think I had somewhere between 12-15,000 comic books. I used to keep a running count, but that system took the dirt nap right around the time my daughter was born in 2003. Most (if not all) insurance companies don’t automatically cover “collections” in a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Mine were uninsured. But it wasn’t that I hadn’t looked into it. The following is a conversation I had with my insurance agent in October or November of 2001. I remember it nearly verbatim because it was right after we had moved into our house (the same one that burned) and because it left me pretty pissed off at the time.
Me: Hey Bob (not his real name), while I have you on the phone, let me ask you something. I have a pretty extensive comic collection and I’d like to buy a rider to our homeowner’s policy for it.
Bob: OK, tell me what you have.
Me: Well, I have probably 7-9,000 books. I’ve been collecting seriously since 1988. But here’s the thing. I’m not trying to insure them as if they belong in a museum. I only want to insure them for what I paid for them.* And because I’ve been buying 95% of my comics from the same place (Westfield Comics) and eBay, I have the vast majority of invoices to back up my cost claims.
*I REALIZE THAT A BOOK I PAID $1.99 (THE “GOOD OLD DAYS”) IN 1992 MAY NOT BE WORTH 50 CENTS TODAY. I ABSOLUTELY DID HAVE A SUBSTANTIAL PORTION OF BOOKS THAT WOULD BE CATEGORIZED AS “CRAP” BY MANY COMIC DEALERS. HOWEVER, I DID HAVE AN EQUAL OR LARGER PORTION OF REALLY NICE/DESIRABLE BOOKS. I STILL THINK THAT IN THE END, THE COLLECTION WOULD AT LEAST BE WORTH COVER PRICE. AS A VOCABULARILY CHALLENGED DRILL SERGEANT USED TO SAY, “IT’S PROBABLY A MUTE POINT NOW…”
<<<at this point, there was an uncomfortable silence>>>
Bob: Well, Mike, before we can look at insuring your funny books,** you’re going to need to get them appraised by an expert.
**MAYBE I’M JUST BITTER, BUT I’M 98% SURE HE CALLED THEM “FUNNY BOOKS.” FUNNY BOOKS?
<<<I take a thoughtful pause>>>
Me: Okayyyyy…You see Bob, we’re taking about thousands of comics here. There’s something like 50 short boxes. I know you don’t know what a “short box” is, but believe me, that’s a lot of boxes. Even if I could find an “expert” to appraise them, the time it would take would be crazy. I can’t even begin to imagine what the bill on that would be. Can’t I just insure them for what I paid for them? I have the invoices and I have an issue-by-issue inventory.
Bob: Well, Mike, XYZ Insurance ain’t gonna buy a pig in a poke. You’re gonna have to get them appraised.
That’s where my memory of the conversation ends. Like someone hit the “STOP” button in my brain. I think I just stopped listening. I’d be understating it if I said the “pig in a poke” comment annoyed me. But, in the end, I didn’t fight it. The man says I need an appraisal, it wasn’t going to happen, so I moved on.
If you’re a comic collector who ever read Comic Buyer’s Guide, you might remember those ads for comic collection insurance. They promised coverage with no appraisals. No fuss, no muss. Sounded too good to be true so I never looked into it. I probably figured, “What are the chances my house is gonna burn down?” Famous last words, as they say…
Next in Part 2: “Man, you had a bunch of comic books…”
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