Circle of Protection: Life

By: Jim Marsh

Introduction: Daring Thief

I was in sixth grade when I was introduced to the darker side of the world of Magic. I sat across from an unfamiliar player in my school library and played a game much like any other. I probably cast a turn one Wall of Wood followed by a Wall of Ice to hold off attackers until I could cast a large threat like Serra Angel or Gaea’s Liege.

During one of my Untap steps a hand reached from behind me and grabbed my library. I turned around and chased down the purported thief. I walked back to my game to find my opponent and the rest of my cards missing. It was not until years later that I came to realize that the thief and my unknown opponent were working together. They would probably get together later and review their haul and split the proceeds between them. 

I thankfully did not own any Power or even those fancy dual lands that everyone was so keen on. I could probably replace what was taken for a couple of twenties at the time but at that age the loss was devastating. We as players form emotional attachments to our decks and as financiers we are keenly aware of the value tied to inked cardboard.

I have often read of tournament reports that were marred by stories of Vintage or Legacy decks that have gone missing or Cube players that do not return every card they drafted either by mistake or design. There have been numerous articles on blogs and websites about natural disasters that devastate homes and leave collectors starting again at square one. We belong to an amazing community and often those articles are followed up with friends and even strangers donating booster boxes, decks and small collections to help them rebuild.

When I am not spell slinging I am an Insurance Agent and so I would like to take an article to describe what we can do as players to protect ourselves from financial and emotional loss.

Collector Protector

The first thing I did after realizing that this was a topic that would interest you was to call up one of my underwriters. In the insurance world your agent will sell you a policy but the underwriter is the one that needs to review it and make sure that the risk is one that the carrier is willing to bind.

I asked the underwriter if they would be willing to insure a large collection of Magic cards. They were aware of them as a vague concept. They thought of baseball cards that you somehow play a game with. They told me that they would be willing to insure a collection of cards that was sitting safely in binders but that if they were used to play games that the risk would be uninsurable. They figured the Wear // Tear of game play would destroy the cards. I had to explain to them about the concept of protective sleeves. This settled them down a little. This underscores the importance of discussing your collection with someone who at least has a basic understanding of the concept of a trading card game.

The first lesson about insurance is that you are responsible for taking all reasonable precautions to protect the asset that you are asking the company to cover. This means that having a bunch of cards sitting in a shoe box may not get the job done. You want everything neatly organized in boxes or binders. I am not saying you need to sleeve every card in your collection but making sure that everything is appropriately stored and organized lets the insurance company feel that you are taking things seriously. I would also keep my collection away from any water sources or out of reach of small children and pets.


If you are a homeowner with a mortgage you are required to have home insurance. Many of you apartment dwellers probably have renters insurance policies in place. I am going to discuss policies in general but coverage will vary from company to company and policy to policy so you will want to discuss this with a knowledgeable agent or company customer representative. If you are a vendor or derive a significant portion of your income from the sale of cards you will want to make sure that you have a Business Owner’s Policy in place with coverage for Inventory and Business Property.

Your Basic Home Insurance policy covers the most common causes of loss including theft, fire and accidental discharge or overflow of water. These are probably the biggest risks that you are concerned about. The term Home Insurance can be misleading. The policy will cover your Personal Property anywhere in the world and not just in your home. Keep in mind that your average policy will not cover flood or earthquakes. They get their own specialized policies.

No policy is ever going to cover neglect or intentional loss. You cannot play Rip It or Flip It and send the bill to your insurance company for the foil Tarmogoyf you unwittingly destroyed.

Your policy will list an amount next to Coverage C which is your Personal Property. This number is probably five or six digits. It is easy to look at that and never give it a second thought since you are covered. Keep in mind that this is meant to replace everything you own in the case of a total loss. This is the maximum that they will pay out in a claim situation. The company is more than willing to settle at a lower number if you cannot substantiate the loss that occurred.

If you read through your policy you will notice that there is a section that sets Special Limits for Personal Property. There are certain types of assets that have built in limits in your policy. Collections including stamps, comic books, coins and trading cards are among the types of assets that will normally be included. Most policies will set of limit of  around $1,000 as the maximum payout for any one loss. A single Modern or Legacy deck could max out that coverage and then some!


Most of you will want to have your collections listed as Scheduled Property. This is how insurance companies cover Valuable Items. You will want blanket coverage for your collection. The instinct for an insurance agent that is scheduling personal property is to individually list each and every card on the policy. If you own a set of the Power 9 and that is all you care about insuring then this may be reasonable. Chances are that you have a collection that has tens if not hundreds of thousands of cards. Those cards probably range in price from pennies to hundreds of dollars each.

One of the advantages to having Scheduled Property instead of using your Personal Property coverage (in addition to higher available limits) is that you can insure your cards at Replacement Value instead of Actual Cash Value. Actual Cash Value is what you paid for the cards. This can be difficult to determine in some cases if you obtained a card through a trade or opening booster packs. If you have been playing for more than a couple years then you have probably want to cover cards like Sensei’s Divining Top at their fair trade value of $27 instead of the dollar you picked them up for when Champions of Kamigawa was still in Standard. Replacement Cost is how much it costs to replace the item at today’s market price.

The first question you will be asked is the value of your collection and how you calculated that amount. I highly recommend using the My Collection tool available for free on It helps you enter your collection and track the value of your cards. You can both import and export spreadsheets so that you can update the value of your collection once or twice a year.

If a subset of your cards are stolen like your Cube or your Shardless Sultai Deck then decklists will be an invaluable resource to you. If you are anything like me then you have thousands of cards of bulk commons and uncommons laying around. You may not choose to list every copy of Rampant Growth that you have accumulated over the years but listing X thousand cards at $5 per thousand is reasonable and efficient ways to insure larger collections without bogging yourself down in endless minutiae. It is also relatively easy to keep track of a small list of sealed product like Booster boxes of Modern Masters or Innistrad that you are saving for a rainy day.

Order histories and receipts for major purchases can be helpful. I would recommend taking digital photos or a video of your collection. Make sure that you are close enough to the cards that you can easily distinguish the condition of your cards. If your cards are signed or altered then be aware that they will probably be considered damaged. You will want to keep your photographs or video somewhere safe that is not in your home. In the case of a fire it does you no good if your documentation is lost with the collection. Fortunately cloud storage has made this convenient and in many cases free.

High value cards especially those over $1000 may require an appraisal. You will be expected to pay for this yourself but unless you are holding Power or a Splendid Genesis then you will probably not have to worry about this part. This  will vary based upon the requirements of the insurance company that you are working with.

The cost of adding this coverage to your existing policy or getting a separate policy will obviously vary based upon the amount of coverage that you are purchasing but prices can range from the price of a draft a month to several hundred dollars a year.

Wake of Destruction

In the case that something is stolen or destroyed then the first thing you want to do is to document the loss. In the case of theft call the authorities and file a police report. This may not result in a grizzled detective canvassing the town and hunting down justice by any means necessary but it will provide paperwork showing that you have taken all necessary steps to potentially recover your property. The police and claims adjustor will want a detailed list of what was taken and having a handy spreadsheet will be infinitely more useful than a pencil and notepad after the fact. Emotions will be running high and you may not be able to remember if you traded away three or four Jittes for fetchlands earlier this year. I would also contact your local game store owner and let them know to be on the lookout for someone looking to sell a deck or cube that is identical to your own.

I spoke to a number of insurance companies in preparation for this article and one thing that surprised me was the number of underwriters who feel hesitant to take on new business of this kind due to fraudulent claims in the past. This is where your photos and videos will be worth their weight in gold. It is an unfortunate reality of the insurance industry but due to fraud Adjustors have to treat every claim as a potential crime against the company until you can prove how honest and trustworthy you are. As I said before during a loss you can feel hurt and vulnerable so having an Adjustor call and cross examine you in a half accusing tone can be very jarring and upsetting. The sooner you produce your evidence and they figure out that you are not trying to pull on over on them then the sooner the mood will lighten and checks can be approved.

Fiery Conclusion

Hopefully nothing does happen to your valuable collection. I know you have put in a lot of time, effort and memories into your cards. I hope that this was helpful and informative. Part of good Magic finance is protecting what we do have in an unpredictable world. If do follow this advise you will be able to breathe a little easier in the knowledge that if something happens to your cards then you will be able to rebuild and replace what you have lost. I know that this covers a lot of generalities but the ultimate details will be determined by your insurance provider of choice. This will vary from country to country, company to company and even across different policies depending on your endorsements and ultimately will be up to the Claims Adjustor that is assigned to you. This should at least leave you better equipped to start the conversation with your agent and to be prepared in case anything happens. I am open to any questions below and will do my best to give you as accurate and answer as possible without offering guarantees that I cannot substantiate.

I also want to take this time to announce that my time writing about the game we all love has come to a close for the current time. I have loved the opportunity to discuss cards with you and have enjoyed tremendous support from everyone here on the site. It has been a blast. However real life is making great demands on my time and I find myself having to make sacrifices to meet those demands. I wish everyone well as you embark on an exciting new metagame.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ll miss you Jim! Our sincere thanks for all your hard work and excellent articles! (AY)

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11 thoughts on “Circle of Protection: Life”

  1. Thank you for all your work you taught me a lot. Seriously. If you need me to return the favor message me on facebook. Cheers

  2. I’m a college student with no “real” home address as of yet (Residence Hall life, with no need for home insurance), but I keep my collection with me on campus. What sort of insurance policy could I look into that’s separate from home insurance?

    1. You have two options.

      The first and easiest is Renters Insurance. It is like a Homeowner’s policy but it does not contain the coverage for the building. It gives you coverage for Personal Property and Personal Liability. This will give you a policy you can add the Scheduled Personal Property (your Magic collection) onto.

      The second is to get a standalone policy for your collection. There are several companies that offer these policies for collectibles or art. They are are the companies that will have the best understanding of the needs of your policy.

      1. If you are a college student living at school, you are also likely to be currently covered under your parents’ Home Owners Policy. If so, the short term solution would be to add your additional coverages to theirs by endorsement.

      2. This can also be a viable option. You absolutely want to make sure that your collection is scheduled on your parents policy. It is ok to let them know that the collection is being kept at school.

  3. This is a bad day. You did pretty well if compared to other writers. Hope you know what you are doing.

    I think you can actually write MTG articles and do what you want at the same time. It just requires some time management. Anyway, wish you the best in what ever you plan to do in the future.

  4. so basically if i have power and duel lands get them insured
    get ebay avg price for key each peace when bringing to an agent
    of course power is sleeved and duels are signed by rob anaxander 95% as he is landscape artist and sleeved.

    the trash portion of my collection while it is sleeved in sets of (*4) per card would it be better to focus on stuff like the mana drains / force of wills or should like your article states deal with any card over 15$ for insuring those to me are write offs and can be obtained easy enough but a person collects a ton of fetches and duels over 15 years

    1. You can insure whatever portion of your collection you feel is worth protecting. I would definitely make sure you list your Power, Dual Lands, Mana Drains, FOW, etc. Once you have the expensive part of your collection covered the marginal cost to add your additional cards is nearly negligible.

      Just make the spreadsheet or register your collection on a site that can help you aggregate current values.

  5. i have a powered/foiled/altered cube worth probably $50,000. I’m always terrified of someone stealing it from my car or robbing me for it. I live in a miami high rise with impenetrable security so it’s totally safe while at home. Any suggestions on a carrier I should contact for a separate policy on this cube?

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