History of Insurance

Many people believe that insurance, a method of equitably transferring and distributing risk, started with Lloyds (the “world’s specialist insurance market”) in the late 1600’s, as a means of funding and securing the risk of trading vessels as they set out on their journeys to the New World. Of course, Lloyd’s, then, was nothing more than a coffee shop founded by Edward Lloyd, where city gentlemen (whom we might now call venture capitalists) would meet to discuss and provide funding for future voyages in return for a guaranteed share of the profits.

This basic system for the funding of those early voyages can be considered as the first emergence of “underwriting” as those investing in the New World voyages signed on the bottom of the ship’s manifest for the share of the cargo they were willing to accept responsibility (and return) for, usually spreading their own risk by taking shares in a number of voyages.

However, historic records show that Chinese and Babylonian traders first used simple methods of risk transfer and distribution between 2000 and 3000BC. The Babylonian system was recorded in the famous Code of Hammurabi around 1750BC, whereby merchants received loans to fund their shipments, paying the investors a sum in exchange for the investors agreement to cancel the loans in the event of the shipment being lost at sea or stolen.

painting of the great fire of London in 1866Returning to the 17th Century, as a response to the chaos that followed the great fire of London that destroyed almost 14,000 buildings, those “underwriters” which had dealt exclusively in marine insurance formed companies that offered fire insurance and thereafter quickly expanded their operations into other areas of insurance. For insurance to establish in America it took a further 100 years, with Benjamin Franklin exerting a considerable influence over its foundation and development; but that’s another story.

Weird and Unusual

In this modern world it would be rare indeed to find someone who has not purchased some form of insurance, whether it be for their car, home, life or business. Insurance gives us the financial security against fortuitous, calamitous and sometimes tragic events with insurers providing policies for these risks, and many, many others.

But would you believe that insurance can also be obtained against the possibility of alien abduction or the possibility of a virgin birth in the event of the second coming of Jesus Christ, an “immaculate conception” policy? Or perhaps death by excessive laughter at the cinema is more your sort of thing; yes, there’s a policy for that too.  Hopefully these interesting, weird and quite possibly useless insurance facts tickle your fancy.

Wedding insurance is available if you want it (for when your prospective spouse cancels their “prospects”), and “hole-in-one” coverage should you fear getting that elusive golfing feat and having to cough up the dough for the round of drinks in the clubhouse afterwards.

The more senior amongst us may vaguely recall that Betty Grables’ legs were insured (for USD 1million each, in the 1940’s) and the practice continues to this day.

Many celebrities insure their famous body parts or talents, and just some are highlighted below, but trust us; there are many, many more examples.

  • Dolly Parton first insured her famous 40DD breasts in the 1970’s for the then princely sum of $ 600,000.
  • Tom Jones, once considered a sex symbol, but still wowing elderly Las Vegas audiences, had his chest hair insured for $ 7 million.
  • David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame insured his semen for a million dollars back in the eighties.
  • Still on music, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has insured his middle finger for $ 1,600,000.
  • Heidi Klum, the German model, television host and actress, insured her legs for $2.2 million. Unlike Ms Parton, whose appendages were insured for equal amounts, one of Heidi’s legs was insured for more than the other: $1,200,000 for the right leg, while only $1,000,000 for the left, a small scar being the determining factor.
  • Top and bottom. Ugly Betty star America Ferrera had had her teeth insured by her sponsor, Aquafresh, for $10,000,000 while Jennifer Lo has insured her butt for $27,000,000.
  • Julia Robert’s dazzling smile has not escaped attention. Considered one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world (11 times) and a candidate in 2011 Men’s Health’s “100 Hottest Women of All Time” Julia insured her smile for $30,000,000.
  • Hiding behind teeth lies the tongue, and Gene Simmons, bassist for 70’s band, Kiss, once insured his for $1,000,000.
  • So far we’ve reviewed singers and celebrities, but the football field (soccer to our American cousins) has also produced its share of unusual insurances, for example, at the height of his career David Beckham insured his legs for $151,000,000. And for the 2014 World Cup, Chinese insurer An Cheng offered “heartbreak” insurance for the fans whose teams exited the tournament early. Policies were available for the fans of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, but . . . no surprise here, really, not for England.
  • Bruce Springsteen has insured his voice for $6,000,000, which is, coincidentally, the same sum that “Hot Legs” and “Maggie May” singer Rod Stewart insured his for.
  • It seems just about any part of the human anatomy can be insured, even the penis. British male stripper Frankie Jakeman insured his for $1,600,000, and in 2013 the male stripper group Dreamboys insured their collective crown jewels for $140 million.
  • Even sensory perception does not escape insurance attention. Coffee taster Gennaro Pelliccia has had his taste buds insured for $10 million by employer Costa Coffee. Famous food critic Egon Ronay insured his own taste buds for $600,000 while Dutch wine make Ilja Gort insured his sense of smell for $8,000,000, the insurance policy excluding Mr. Gort from riding a motorcycle or working as a knife thrower among other things.
  • James Bond actor Daniel CraigDaniel Craig, the British actor currently playing James Bond, insured his body for $ 7.7 million while filming his first appearance as 007 in the 2006 movie Casino Royale.
  • For the 2008 sequel, Quantum of Solace, his body was insured for $ 9.5million. Craig likes to do his own stunts, taking the view his fans are paying to see him and so does his own stunts and wants them to know it’s him.

Other notable insurances include:

  • British Comedian Ken Dodd insured his teeth for $6,000,000.
  • “Lord of the Dance” Michael Flatley insured his legs for $40 million.
  • $300,000 was the sum insured on Aussie cricketer Merv Hughes’ handlebar moustache.
  • Basil Brush’s bushy tail was insured for $1,600,000.
  • In 2001 comedian Rich Hall insured himself against a “permanent loss of humour”, also for $1,600,000.
  • That same year Nicola Jones insured herself against becoming ugly, as determined by 10 random independent building workers. Here again the sum insured was $1,600,000.
  • And lastly, in what must have been a great year for the insurance industry, in 2001 Andrew Areoff insured himself against being given “naff Christmas presents”. The sum insured? Of course, it was $1,600,000.

We hope you have enjoyed this light-hearted, and our first, blog entry of 2015.

From all of us at Trafalgar International, we wish you, your family and loved ones a very happy new year, and may you be successful and prosperous in all that you do.