COULD you be sitting on a fortune?

TV programmes such as the BBC’s popular ‘Antiques Roadshow’ have increased our awareness of the potential value of our keepsakes and possessions.

Expanding our knowledge of what things are worth has reduced the opportunity of paying a few pounds for a piece of pottery at a local bric-a-brac or car boot sale and finding, years later, that it is actually worth a fortune.

People are certainly more savvy and are, hopefully, less carefree when it comes to casting things out just to save space - and that is particularly important when it comes to family heirlooms.

But just how much are they worth - and what could you potentially lose if the worst was to happen?

Homeowners in Yorkshire and Humber risk huge financial losses as artwork valuations soar..

The warning comes from high net worth insurance broker, Lycetts, as Bonhams’ Director of Valuations, Harvey Cammell, told how “sectors, such as 20th century British art, jewellery, Chinese art and classic motors, have seen significant appreciation.”

“It’s very important to keep abreast of the subtle fluctuations in the fine art market,” says Harvey.

“While the more traditional fine art areas, such as Old Master paintings, furniture and silver have seen a polarisation in pricing, exceptional works in these areas have still continued to increase in value.”

Lycetts insurance expert Gerard Salvin pointed out that owners of high value art and antiques, particularly items that have been inherited or gifted, will often be unaware of how much they are truly worth.

“For some, ownership will have derived from profit-motivated investments, but in many cases, the focus is on the emotional and sentimental – rather than financial – value of home contents,” the Yorkshire-based specialist explained.

“In the normal course of events, accurate, expert, valuations of items are quite rare. As a consequence, the valuations that owners provide for insurance purposes can often be underestimated.

“This risks leaving them dangerously underinsured, and facing losses of thousands of pounds on high value items, in the event of fire, flood or theft.”

Lycetts has recently struck an agreement with Bonhams, which gives Lycetts’ clients a discount of 10 per cent on Bonhams’ standard valuation fees.

Adds Harvey: “Bonhams is always happy to discuss the valuation process in confidence with Lycetts’ clients to help ensure their insurance requirements are met.”

When to ask the experts.....

Interestingly, Guy Baxter, insurance expert and account executive at Lycetts, explains while the market may have bottomed out in brown furniture, it’s worth checking the value before you pick up the paint tin and give it a modern make-over.

“You will see people buying up tables and chairs for hundreds of pounds rather than thousands and painting them with chalk paint, but there may be some particular items of antiques and this is where you have to take advice. You need to keep up to date with the market,” says Guy.

When to re-value....

If you don’t want to be caught out should the worst happen and you lose an item or it is damaged or stolen, it is imperative you keep your valuations up to date. Guy suggests to check for updates within the market for guidance. He suggests re-valuing jewellery and watches every two to three years and fine art and antiques every five to 10 years.

What’s it worth....

“We have seen some real spikes in the market of jewellery and watches,” says Guy.

Gold and silver have seen increases in value, along with coloured diamonds, so it’s worth asking an expert to cast their trained eye over your collection to ensure they are insured correctly.

“There have been such dramatic spikes people need to understand what they have and take advice.”

“The market for coloured diamonds has grown considerably in the last year or so,” says Guy, referring to the prices realised at auction for pink and blue diamonds in particular.

Those who have inherited a piece of jewellery, or a high value watch such as a Rolex submariner, would be best placed to seek expert advice to find out its real value so they can get the appropriate insurance cover.

Other high value possessions include whisky. “Another area we have seen increasing is whisky, this would be great malt whisky,”

“The market has exploded again and a lot of it seems to be driven from the overseas markets,” says Guy, referring to demand in the Far East.”

The value of Chinese vases and Faberge jewellery is also rising - according to Guy.

He talks of one client who had purchased a piece of Faberge jewellery for around £3,000 and only discovered when it was lost that it had been severely under-valued and would now be worth twice as much.

This demonstrates the importance of getting your possessions valued - and take photos of high value items too.

According to Guy modern British Art can increase in value too: “So it is worth keeping a close eye on the market,” he says.