Birkin handbags from Hermès are one of the most sought-after fashion accessories today. They can retail for around £16,000 but can then be sold on the secondary market for £20,000–£30,000 because demand for them is exceptionally high. So, if one of the bags is damaged, how much is it really worth? That’s the question for Grace.
Loss adjusters are specialists who investigate when things go wrong. One of Grace’s specialisms is collectables – a deceptively simple description for an incredibly varied range of rare or sought-after items including limited edition Nike trainers, comic books, Pokémon cards, 1800s French porcelain objects, even avant-garde light fixtures. Should these items be damaged or lost, then it’s Grace’s job to assess the claim and report to the insurers the facts at hand. Grace calculates an accurate market value for the item and makes payment recommendations so that the owner can be compensated.
“The market for collectables is really broad,” Grace explains. “It’s also a much larger market than people realise. Some of the most unusual items I’ve seen are original cassette tapes and vinyls of the rapper Eminem. But I’ve also encountered drum kits, diecast metal toy cars, Victorian decanters shaped like ducks, and Rolex watches.”
Born in America, with a British dual citizenship, Grace began her career as a sculptor. After working for a fine art museum in Seattle, she moved to London to complete a Masters’ degree with the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, where she published her dissertation on insuring contemporary art. After a stint as a gallery manager, she joined a Lloyd’s insurance broker before moving to loss adjuster McLarens.
“Because claims are so varied, I have to do a lot of research,” Grace says. “That means I might need to spend a lot of time in the library of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum or browsing through auction records. It mostly requires doing online research and also identifying specialist experts for their specific knowledge. With collectables, I’ve got to be open to hearing from experts and taking their advice.”