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Insurance of Sentimental Value Items

A practical way of thinking about the reality of protecting Sentimental Value items


This is something to consider because some of the things you have are irreplaceable sentimental value items. Whereas there are things you can insure, such as a building (home insurance often covers the cost of rebuilding your home if it was destroyed, and the material cost of replacing the contents), or a vehicle (motor insurance covers the list-price of your car), there are some things which are more tricky to insure. Most notably, the sentimental value items.

How do you insure your old photographs, personal journals, and family heirloom relics? I realised this was an issue when I was emigrating, a process which involves packing all my worldly bits-and-pieces into shipping containers. I realised there are some things which can be insured in a practical sense, as they have a material value, and there are some things which would fit into this "Sentimental Insurance" category. There is a NEED to insure, but it may be an impossibility to insure such things in a practical sense.

So, whereas with home insurance , motor insurance , pet insurance , travel insurance , health insurance , and life insurance , there are lists of companies willing to take on the risk for you, this page is without such a list, as there are, approximately (at the time of writing) no companies willing to do it! Incidentally, pet insurance doesn't actually insure your pet (which is irreplaceable); it insures your bank balance against the cost of the private medical bills of your pet! Similarly, with health insurance and travel insurance, purely financial risks are taken on. Most notably, life insurance doesn't save you from death, and instead it covers other people from the financial loss resulting from your untimely demise!

Now with the problem of insurance of sentimental items, even if there were companies willing to take on the risks, it would be hard to figure out ways in which they could possibly pay if you needed to make a claim. In practice, they might be able to pay you a financial compensation for the sad loss of your sentimental bits-and-pieces, but it's seriously questionable that this would help much.

What most people do is to cross their fingers, or turn to various things they believe in according to their religion. This might help them to feel better if they don't have to "make a claim", but if things go wrong, then what? It's no help at all!

So, a practical approach is needed. Although it's not possible to insure against the loss of some items, it is possible to make some progress against some of the risks by various means.

I have diaries going back many years, and these would be a top item on a claims list if there were such a thing as Sentimental Value Insurance. However, as I've been writing diaries for longer than I have had computers, a great many of them are in physical books, as per how to write a diary. A physical book diary by default has no backup, as it's a unique volume. However, I set about correcting this omission by some latenight photo digitisation sessions. With a 275 watt lamp and the Fujifilm Finepix digital camera which has a "text mode", I eventually succeeded in photographing every page of every volume, which then allowed the old journals to have a real backup in digital form!

If you own a house, it's a good idea to apply this "digital photo every page" to your Deeds. This is not just because of deplorable cases of Solicitors shredding Deeds, but also because the ancient documents should be kept for posterity, and digital page photo-taking allows you to preserve the documents for posterity even if you sell the house (the buyers will expect to acquire the original Deeds).

Old photographs from the age of film present a similar challenge, where for the sake of good curatorship, the images need to be digitally captured and stored. Super8 movie film can also be digitised, but this requires a frame-by-frame automated system which turns the movie into a set of digital frames, which can then be presented as a movie.

The thing that makes "digital" better from an insurance perspective is not the fact that it's digital, but the fact that it is possible to make a 100% perfect copy and store backups in different locations.

Also consider How Much is Your Data Worth ?

Physical objects of sentimental value are more difficult, but this is not something to give up on. You can see this from retrospective examples. There have been ships and buildings which have long since sunk or been demolished, and yet some of the sentimental value still lives on because we have relics, samples, photos, and documents. Now applying that to things which you might have in your possession today, you can acquire relics and samples when the opportunity arises, take photos when you can, and make copies of documents. Such opportunistic history requires seeing things as if you are looking at the present day from a future perspective. For example, if you're selling the old family car, you can keep all the old tax-discs and leave only the current one in. If you're having some home improvement work done, for example adding a conservatory, save a few old bricks and bits of wood (from the site of the building work) as relics. Although such samples and relics can't be "backed up" as such, samples can be split, making them easier to insure for sentimental insurance purposes.

Even transient and temporary things can be captured in essence at the very moment they occurred with digital photography, for which you're not paying for the film!

Also see the gloriousness of hoarders and the general squirrelling-away of huge amounts of stuff.


Also see Tsunami Insurance which also highlights the need for an insurance not being connected to the availability. These things are important to think about, to help to save yourself and avoid problems.