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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

Tue May 14th, 2013 on     Insurance Claims,    

Every year, generally around tax time, people go through their paper files to clean out the old stuff and put in the new. Out goes the investment account summary from 2004 — the rule is seven years, right? Keep important papers and tax records for seven years, then shred them? 

When it comes to insurance policies and claims, it may pay to hold onto the paperwork for a little bit longer. Holding onto the ledger page of a certain policy written in March 1912, for example, recently earned someone $25,000.

The insured? The White Star Line’s new ship, Titanic.

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company Limited, aka the White Star Line, purchased coverage from the Atlantic Mutual Insurance Company for Titanic. The policy was effective March 30, 1912, with a renewal date of March 30, 1913. Typically, insurance companies shared the risk on a marine policy, and this was no exception. Atlantic insured Titanic in part, while Prudential Insurance Company of London headed up a syndicate of insurers assuming the remainder of the risk. 

The buyer, who chose to remain anonymous, got much more than a slip of paper. The page includes a handwritten addendum that states that the policy will also cover “the trip from Belfast to Southampton … and the risk of trials on said trip, if any.” 

In addition to the ledger page, the lot included documentation supporting the insurance claim made following the April 15, 1912, disaster. Ship’s officers describe the incident in surprisingly matter-of-fact terms: “The ship struck a ‘growler’ or a small low-lying iceberg with the bluff of her starboard bow, making a comparatively slight jar with a grinding sound.”

“Growler,” indeed. The ship was a total loss, and more than 1,500 people perished. 

Source: Insurance Journal, “Original Ledger Page for Titanic Insurance Policy Sold for $25K,” May 3, 2013

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