Comedian George Carlin frequently commented on our need and want for “stuff.” Indeed the accumulation of material items has always been a part of the human condition. However, over the past decade our love for our stuff has reached unimagined heights. One of the fastest growing industries in the last three decades is the self-storage industry. The US is home to the bulk of these self-storage facilities, and almost 9% of Americans have storage units. The total of the world’s self-storage space is impressive at 2.3 billion square feet, or an area three times the size of Manhattan; all of which is devoted to keeping one’s stuff secure.
Securing our stuff is not, however, sufficient; we must protect it from loss or damage through insurance. Having insurance protection for our homes, cars and property is in and of itself not a bad idea. Homes and cars are among the two most expensive investments we make; the loss of all of our property presents major problems and expense. Additionally, some items, like jewelry and art work represent major investments. So it makes sense to insure this stuff.
However, the range of stuff that people have insured is vast, unusual and sometimes just weird:
Of all the stuff we have, most of us consider our body to be among the most valuable. Some celebrities have taken this to new levels by purchasing insurance against the loss or damage to specific items. Food Critic Egon Ronay insured his taste buds for $400,000. Bruce Springsteen’s voice is insured for more than $4 million. Keith Richards’ hands are insured for $1.6 million.
Legs have the honor of being among the most often insured body part. This started in the 1940’s with America’s favorite pin-up girl Betty Grable who insured her legs for $1 million (equivalent to $16 million today). Other famous insured legs belong to Michael Flatley, and Rudolph Nureyev. David Beckham’s legs are insured for £100 million. One of the more recently insured pair of legs belongs to Heidi Klum. Although Klum’s legs are worth more than $1 million, one is worth less than the other due to the presence of a small scar.
Damage to our bodies due to a particular type of injury has also been insured. A research paper published in the mid-80’s titled Injury Due to Falling Coconuts stated that over 100 people were killed each year by falling coconuts and others injured. The report caused not only a number of coconut trees to be felled around the world, but also led to a UK travel company to cover “injury by falling coconut” insurance. Reportedly there was one claim filed by a policy holder, who escaped death. As a side note, the study was widely ridiculed.
Other body parts to receive special insurance include the breasts of Dolly Parton and Madonna, the beards of Derbyshire Whiskers Club, which are protected again fire and theft and the beard of Macy’s Santa Claus.
While insuring jewelry makes perfect sense, the coverage sometimes comes with a list of stipulations. In the late 1960’s Richard Burton paid $1.1 million for the world’s most expensive diamond at the time, for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. Lloyd’s insured the diamond with the stipulation that it could only be worn 30 days a year and then only when accompanied by security guards. (In the late 70’s, Taylor sold this bit of stuff for $5 million and used the money to build a hospital in Botswana.)
The Perils of Space
Richard Branson has a policy through Lloyd’s to protect his Virgin Galactic spaceship, although satellites are routinely insured against space debris and other physical damage. However, a large number of Americans want to insure that they, and their stuff, remain on earth and have purchased more the $10 million in coverage to protect and compensate them in case of alien abduction.
Annexx self storage Bordeaux, France – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Betty Grable showing off her “million dollar legs” – Wikimedia Public Domain
SpaceShipTwo and White Knight Two – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Mike Ashley lives in twin cities of Minnesota. He likes to blog and spends his free time fishing and with his kids. He currently freelances for various newspapers and sometimes pod-casts on the local radio station.
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