Watch Out!


By Debbie Carlson
Illustrations by Clay Sisk

Whether you own jewelry, comics, sports memorabilia or vintage posters, home-security systems have evolved rapidly over the past few years as technological improvements make it easier, and sometimes cheaper, to safeguard your valuables.

For collectors, security has a two-fold importance: protecting your property and protecting your collection. In addition to traditional motion sensors and cameras, new home-security systems include other applications like sensors that notify owners if an object is moved, and environmental monitoring. At the very high end, security systems combine artificial intelligence and human monitoring to eliminate the need for on-property guards.

Smart-home technology is significantly changing the home-security industry, says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, and do-it-yourself home-security systems are competing with traditional wired security. Smart-home technology connects via Wi-Fi and lets homeowners remotely access systems with their smartphones or tablets. These systems are cheaper because homeowners buy and install the components themselves. No phone landline is needed and these systems can have 24/7 monitoring through the security company.

Homeowners can usually install their system in about a half-hour, with information available on the website and over the phone, says Adam Pineau, product manager for do-it-yourself home-security system SimpliSafe. The company’s most popular package includes a base station, a wireless keypad, an entry sensor and a motion sensor, for $259. More sensors can be added for additional costs. The base station connects remotely to the sensors, sounds an alarm and alerts the company to a potential break-in, and the company calls police. Monthly monitoring costs $14.99, and there is no contract.

One advantage over a wired security system is that homeowners can easily move sensors and cameras, and they can add more hardware quickly. “It gives them some flexibility to really try out the security system and make sure that it’s giving them the coverage that they’re looking for,” Pineau says.

Do-it-yourself systems that come with a set of sensors and cameras are fine for apartments and smaller homes, says Ariel Darmoni, operations manager for home remodeling firm 123Remodeling. When house footprints get larger than a typical 2,000-square-foot home, or if the homeowner wants to also monitor the outside, Darmoni recommends working with professionals who know the right way to spread and position cameras to cover the entire property. “You can put in too many cameras and spend a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he says.


While do-it-yourself systems have their place, DiClerico suggests collectors stick with a professionally installed hardwired security system connected to a police department. “Even though we’re at an interesting inflection point [in-home security], the do-it-yourself systems are not as robust and they’re not as secure as a hard-wired alarm system,” he says.

Hard-wired systems are less vulnerable to hacking and not susceptible to signal interference from other electronics in the home and still work when the internet goes down. That extra security comes with a higher cost. On average, hardware and installation costs for a traditional hard-wired security system can run from $800 to $1,600, plus monthly fees for monitoring, whereas DIY systems can cost $600 or less, he says.

Tim McKinney, vice president of ADT Custom Home, which works with high-net-worth clients, says beyond the protection for the house’s perimeter, special security steps for collections include putting electronic or magnetic contact sensors on artwork that will alert collectors if the piece has been moved, to whole-room monitoring that includes lighting and climate control, video monitoring and restricting access to the room.

For whole-room monitoring, collectors should consider a home-monitoring platform, which allows the security company to remotely control the home’s various support systems, like HVAC or locks. This monitoring allows the security company to alert the collector to unwanted activity, like a break-in or fire. It will alert authorities and take action like shutting down the HVAC in case of a fire or locking/unlocking doors. Hardware costs vary for this system, but monthly monitoring costs from $50 to $75, McKinney says.

When hiring a home-security professional, DiClerico says homeowners should ask the company typical questions such as experience with the type of home and collection, and get referrals, but also inquire about how the monitoring system works and how they replace or upgrade obsolete equipment. Home automation monitoring is becoming more popular, but homeowners need to ask themselves if they are willing to hand off that type of remote access to a security company.

Protecting the perimeter of the house is the main step to protecting your collection. Ken Young, chief executive officer of Edgeworth Security, says most burglaries are crimes of opportunity where a thief finds an easy way to slip in and out of the house. Edgeworth Security, which caters to ultra-high-net worth clients, uses artificial intelligence and a live-action command center to remotely monitor trespassing on the property and warns the person to leave and that the police have been called. He says that takes care of the vast majority of would-be theft.

To prevent “inside job” theft or targeted burglaries, Young says collectors can discretely use radio-frequency identity tags (RFID) on the items. If an object is moved, the tag triggers an alarm.

Ron Fiamma, global head of private collections for insurer AIG Private Client Group, says AIG’s risk management staff works with collectors making recommendations for security vendors and systems. AIG Private Client Group specializes in fine art and has on-staff art experts who help implement techniques and security provisions specific to the collections.

The insurer will do a complete vulnerability assessment of the collection and make recommendations on everything from properly hanging objects to ensuring there are adequate smoke alarms and fire alarms, particularly where the collection may reside.

Having a central-station monitored home-security system and loss mitigation devices such as automatic water shut-off valves will usually mean lower homeowner insurance rates. The collector and insurer, Fiamma says, should discuss security techniques and provisions. “The safer the collection is, the more comfortable an insurance carrier feels with the way the collection is being housed.”

Safely Protected


Jewelry and watch collections require special care, and jewelry safes offer beauty, proper organization and secure storage.

Jewelry safes look much like jewelry boxes, with dedicated compartments for rings, necklaces and earrings, and watch winders.

Beware of inexpensive, lightweight safes sold online, say Lynel Brown, vice president at Brown Safe ( and Richard Krasilovsky, president of Empire Safe (, as many of those can be easily broken into, whether by being lifted up and carried out, or pried open with a crowbar.

Install your safe where you dress, adds Nancy Bryan, co-owner of Casoro Jewelry Safes ( If a safe is not accessible, owners may either not wear their jewelry or, more importantly, may not return it to the safe after wearing it, risking theft.

When deciding on the size you need, gather your collection and then add a little extra space to have room for future purchases, Krasilovsky, Bryan and Brown say.

If you want to bolt the safe to the floor, do so from the interior of the safe and connect it to the home-security system, says Sheela Murthy, president of Traum Safe (

Although the companies can make mechanical tumbler locks, most locks now are digital and have separate, dedicated battery systems. These can be keypad types or biometric locks. The lock needs to be easy for the collector to use. “If it’s not easy to use, you may just end up putting your jewelry on the dresser at the end of the night and in the morning you forget to put it away,” Bryan says. “That’s the day you get burglarized.”

Home safes can start at about $1,935. Top-end and customized models retail for up to $210,000.

Empire’s Diamond TDR 3900 Series: Used by the jewelry and precious metals industries to prevent sophisticated burglary attacks. Model TDR39-3016-12 (shown) with a Porsche brown metallic paint finish plus a customized interior with jewelry and watch drawers. At least 36 different sizes can be customized for high-end residential applications.

Traum’s Cosmopolitan Safe with Automatic Watch Winders: The Cosmopolitan Safe model features a receding door that is perfect for closets or tighter spaces. The safe’s interior can be customized with automatic watch winders, jewelry drawers, shelving and more.

Brown Safe’s Chronos Series: Created for world’s finest watch and jewelry collections. Each safe is custom-crafted to meet the owner’s needs and reflect their personal style. Features include full ballistic armor construction, automatic watch winders and biometric fingerprint reading entry.

Casoro’s Emerald Jewelry Safe: The Emerald is the most popular model from Casoro’s Gemstone Collection. It features programmable watch winders, customized drawer interiors, and flush-mounted LED lighting.

Debbie CarlsonDEBBIE CARLSON is a Chicago freelancer whose work has appeared in Barron’s, U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal. This story appears in the Fall 2018 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe.

You may also like