Art theft losses may exceed $1 billion, and 160,000 losses reported so far experts tell IMUA seminar



New York - At a recent Inland Marine Underwriters Association (IMUA) Arts & Records Committee Seminar on Art Theft and Recovery, industry experts noted that worldwide art theft losses, while difficult to quantify, may exceed $1 billion annually.  The IMUA seminar held in New York featured David Shillingford, Director of Marketing & Operations—New York Office, Art Loss Register™ (ALR), New York, N.Y.; Gregory Smith, Principal Claim Investigator, G.J. Smith & Associates, Irvington, N.Y.; and Robert Wittman, Senior Investigator, Art Crime Team, FBI, Philadelphia, Pa.

Established by leading auction houses, members of the insurance industry, and art trade associations, the ALR  is the world's largest database of stolen art and antiques dedicated to their recovery. “The extent of art theft depends on what’s included but if jewelry in the United States is included, then the total losses amounted to $1.06 billion in 1995 alone,” said Mr. Shillingford. He added, “there are more than 160,000 items currently on the ALR.” The register includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, clocks, ceramics, furniture, objets d’art, silver, rugs, tapestries, jewelry, watches, musical instruments, religious items, dolls, teddy bears, arms and more. Mr. Shillingford said that, “about 63 percent of all items recovered were actually found listed in auction house catalogs. Law enforcement finds about 25 percent of the items. The 8 percent of stolen items ‘found through dealers’ are as a result of dealers requesting searches of the ALR database.” The ALR advises consumers to contact them before purchasing art to ensure it has not been stolen.


FBI Investigator Wittman said, “the FBI estimates art losses at between $1 billion to $8 billion per year. The wide range occurs because uninsured losses are never reported. Of all the reported and investigated losses, about 90 percent result from ‘internal’ thieves with burglars and robbers responsible for the other 10 percent.”


Formed in November 2004, the FBI’s relatively new Art Crime Team, currently has eight dedicated investigators and two attorneys located in various regions throughout the United States. Investigator Wittman noted, “We also coordinate with many foreign countries to ensure that stolen art and antiquities, especially those of historical or cultural nature, are returned.”


Founded in 1930, IMUA is the national association for the commercial inland marine insurance industry.  IMUA serves as the voice of its member companies representing over 90 percent of all commercial inland marine insurers. The association provides its members with comprehensive training and educational programs, including research papers and bulletins, industry analysis and seminars.

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