by Matthew Perry
(last updated April 27, 2012)
You can put absolutely anything you want in a safe deposit box. Of course, if it's illegal, you run the risk of prison...but the option is there. The 'safe' part of safety deposit boxes—that is, the vault, security cameras, locks, alarms...all that good stuff—makes them an ideal place for things that are hard to replace, valuable, or in other ways important to you. On the more inventive side, some people have even used safe deposit boxes as holding pens for hamsters. This is not recommended.
Valuables come to mind first, for me at least; homes being notoriously prone to robbery, many people don't feel comfortable keeping unusually valuable items in their home. Jewelry, coin or stamp collections, and autographed pictures all might fall into this category, as well as just about anything else. Family heirlooms may fall into this category, even though many heirlooms are kept more for sentimental reasons than for monetary value. Miniature portraits and wedding rings are particularly appropriate for this category, though they certainly don't make a complete list.
Keep in mind that keeping large items in your safe deposit box may require you to rent a larger (and more expensive) box. Since safe deposit boxes are generally designed for small objects, Grandma's antique rocking chair may have to find a different home. Important and one-of-a-kind documents, however, belong on the list of things that both fit in safe deposit boxes and belong in them. Many people feel more confident when their birth and marriage certificates, wills, and deeds are locked away in a bank than when they're hung on the wall or stuffed in a drawer in the spare room.
While safe deposit boxes are undoubtedly more secure than most private homes, they aren't perfect. Before leaving your property in one, take what precautions you can to make them even safer. If your things would be damaged by water, it would be wise to wrap them in plastic bags in case of a flood. Make copies of your documents (or other copy-able media) to keep in a separate location as insurance against unfortunate events. And, speaking of insurance, check your policy to make sure your property is covered while in a safe deposit box. Many policies don't cover items kept apart from your home, and banks don't automatically insure your things.
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