TTTThe Erudite Thieves
Hi Lindy Hoppers!!!
Check Your Insurance Coverage

The Vintage Clothes Heist

Briefly, our car was broken into and a lot of one-of-a-kind vintage clothes were stolen. I was amazed at the sophistication of the thieves. My mind immediately raced to the 1953 film "Beat the Devil". Read on --- my initial impressions were not far from wrong.
Beat the Devil
My concept of the thieves
Humphrey Bogart's Last Film - Beat the Devil
it also includes Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre,
and almost all your favorite character actors

Our long-planned vacation in Cape May, New Jersey was going very well --- the weather was just wonderful and we even managed to get in a few hours on the beach. In case you don't know, Cape May is most known for Victoriana --- about 80% of the city is restored turn-of-the century clapboard and gingerbread mansions. This was sort of a "Trip to Grandma's" for 40s retro enthusiasts --- in fact, Cape May has looked pretty much the same for the past 60 years, although the recent activity has been restoration of the insides as well as the outsides of the houses.

From past experience, we didn't hope to find very many artifacts from the Swing Era --- this was just a vacation. Then, strictly by accident, we stumbled upon Ellen Christine (668 Washington Street, 609-884-3888)... Well, it turns out that Ellen did her Master's thesis on Alternative Culture Clothing in the 1940s. Although her store appears to focus on Victorian clothing, she delved into boxes and behind corners to produce a dazzling display of men's and women's fashions. All told, we spent three hours and a whole lot of money there. This was one of the richest treasure troves of Swing fashion that we have yet uncovered -- and Ellen says that this only scratches the surface of her inventory. She rented a LOT of clothes to the producers of the film Pearl Harbor. I am seriously considering asking her to come down to DC for a fashion show!

By the way, if you are in New York, check out her other store at 225 W 18 st, NY, NY 10011, 202-242-2457

After our tremendous find, we decided to drive to Atlantic City for a special exhibit of World War II memorabilia at the Tropicana Casino. This exhibition was put on by Jonathan Gorman, who is well known for displays at the Reading Air Show. This was indeed a great show and we enjoyed it very much. After a nice dinner, we were on our way home when we heard a band playing ... well, it turned out that there is a whole gang of "original" jitterbuggers that hang out in the casino lounges. We had a great time talking to folks and sharing dance experiences. The dancing part of the evening kept us just a bit beyond our planned departure time, but what the heck, it was vacation...

Our idyll was disturbed when we got back to the car --- a security officer was standing nearby and what remained of the right rear passenger window was strewn all over the garage. Of all things, the thieves had stolen three bags -- our vintage clothes and a large bone that we had bought for Sophie the Dog.

Sophie the Dog
Sophie the Dog, and friend...
What lowlife would steal a bone from this dog?
What kind of idiot would steal a dog bone?

I was initially quite impressed with the responsiveness of the security people. Then it sank in --- they had a lot of practice at this. The Atlantic City police arrived and did a cursory examination, filled out a form and handed me a report number. We were directed to another location in the casino and an employee produced a vacuum, heavy plastic and duct tape. Yep, they had done this a LOT...

The Window
The Car window Patched with Duct Tape
Actually, I added the flag after we got home
Shades of MacGuyver...

Our first lesson was: if you go to Atlantic City, DO NOT park in the so called complimentary visitor lots. Apparently, security in these lots is haphazard to say the least. Next, do not leave anything visible to thieves. I have an older car, and the only thing in the car was vintage clothes --- apparently the thieves were drawn by the shopping bags. I feel really stupid...

The next step was sorting out the insurance problem. And, this is where you should pay close attention. I felt reasonably secure because I have three types of insurance: credit card purchase, automobile comprehensive, and homeowner's property. It turns out that ***NONE*** of this would help me. That's right, N*O*N*E!!! here's why:

  • Credit Card: credit card purchase protection is offered with high end "expensive metal" credit cards. For example, I have a platinum Visa. A call to the service number on my card produced a modicum of sympathy from a young woman with a soothing voice. Yes, I had reported it within 24 hours, yes I had filed apolice report. After an ominous, "Please Hold", the voice changed to the Wicked Witch of the West: "We do not cover anything lost from an automobile" (later, I checked my credit card agreement and sure enough, printed in type that would give the Almighty eyestrain, was a statement that losses from automobiles were not covered). (The soothing operator came back on and said, "Your Auto Insurance or Homeowner's policy will cover this")
  • Auto Insurance: my insuror covered the replacement glass, but informed me that they only insured anything actually attached to the car. The contents were not insured. (The operator said, "Your Credit Card or Homeowner's policy will cover this")
  • Homeowner's: After quite some time in what must be the most bewildering voice mail system in the universe, I finally contacted an agent. She was chewing a big wad of gum. Yes, they do cover losses of personal property from autos. Unfortunately, Vintage Clothes are a form of collectible. She asked whether I had added these clothes to my Rider for antiques. It did not seem to matter that I had purchased them five hours before... At any rate, without an appraisal, they were considered "secondhand clothes" and could be reimbursed at a rate of about $1.00 per pound. (At the end of what turned into a mildly acrimonious discussion, the claims representative actually said, "Your Credit Card or Auto policy will probably cover this")

If you collect vintage clothes, don't expect a lot of help from your insurance. Appraisals generally cost about 3-5% of the value of the item. One of the other things that I hope to do is to get together a collectible and vintage appraisal fair in which we could bring in certified appraisers and get a good rate.

As I was busy writing this article about the "Erudite Thieves", I got a phone call from Security at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Apparently, someone had neatly placed our bags of vinatge clothes in the lobby. It seems that HORDES of homeless people had an opportunity to sort through them before the security guard noticed that they were wrapped in tissue paper. They found the receipts in the bag and called me. Everything is there. Even thought the receipt showed that mucho $$$ had been laid out, our thieves and passersby declined to partake of these items.

I guess that you have to be really into vintage to comprehend this. I mean, this is one of those "one hand clapping" things. Perhaps, I am delusional in believing that these things have value... We are eagerly awaiting the return of our clothes via Fed Ex...

The Package
Here is the package on our doorstep.
Was it some kind of coincidence that they chose a box of chef hats?

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