How to Protect High Value Art Collections from Thieves


If you own valuable art, or a high value collection of other items, it may be more at risk than you think.

Art theft is a multi-billion dollar a year problem world-wide. And according to the FBI, only about 5% of stolen art is ever recovered.

So what can you do to better protect your high value art collection from thieves? Follow these steps:

·         Document your collection. Take multiple pictures from multiple angles of what you have, making sure to emphasize unique features like an edition number. Store purchase receipts in a safe location separate from the collection itself. For those that collect paintings, look into what is called a “DNA thread.” These threads are woven into the back of a canvas without harming the painting in any way. They contain information about the piece, including its current owner and ownership history.

·         Install a great home security system. The system should be able to detect unauthorized entry from all points of entry and exit. Motion detectors should be used as an additional line of defense. Strengthen and use thicker and heavier anchored locks and striker plates on all doors.

·         Attach alarms to high value artwork. These non-obtrusive art security devices can send a signal to an alarm company if artwork is disturbed.

·         Use video surveillance cameras. Security cameras can be used in areas that display your high-value collection, as well as other areas inside or outside your home. Some can be motion-activated and can trigger an alarm to a security company for action.

·         Make security visible. Don’t hide system cameras. Use a yard sign letting people know your home is fully protected. Make sure people know they are being watched.

·         Conduct background checks. In many homes people can frequently come and go. Household staff, repair men, acquaintances and contractors should all be known to you. Make sure you have the names and addresses of all contractors and their employees working in your home. You should conduct thorough background checks on all household staff, including groundskeepers.

·         Stick with fine-art storage facilities. If you store your collection somewhere due to space considerations, use a facility that specializes in storing high value art. They feature better art security and environmental controls than regular storage facilities. Ask them about their security track record, who has access to the facility, the type of security measures they use and the background checks they conduct. Find out if any museums store their art there, as this is a sign of higher levels of security. One other thing to check – find out if they use rental security guards or their own personnel. Experts advise that in-house security guards generally perform better than rental guards.

·         Visit storage facilities regularly. Visit periodically to make sure things are still there. If you discover that something is missing after months go by, the trail gets cold and it’s quite difficult to identify the thief.