5 Items Commonly Lost During a PCS -- and How to Find Them

Items Commonly Lost During a PCS
Challenge coins spread out on a table. (U.S. Air Force/Greg L. Davis)

If you ever realized months after unpacking from your last Permanent Change of Station (PCS) that something is still missing, you're not alone. In typical years the Defense Department moves up to 400,000 household goods shipments and it's very common for items to get lost in the process.

So which of your things are most to be missing after you unpack -- and how can you better protect them or find them?

Challenge Coins

The most common missing items, particularly when leaving Europe, are service members' challenge coin collections. Many suspect that these are stolen by local moving agents as you will also find the coins showing up on Facebook marketplace and local pawn shops, but there is no telling why the coins go missing as they have more value to the recipient of them than they do anyone else.

If you have room in your suitcase officials recommend you hand carry them with you. Depending on the size of your collection, that may or may not be possible. Another option is to either mail them ahead to someone on the other end, hide them in other pre-packed items or put them with other high-value items to go on the high-value inventory.


People usually physically move their jewelry with them so it will not have the chance of disappearing in the move. However, it can be easy to forget a necklace or ring sitting on the dresser or nightstand and, before we know it, the movers are in the bedroom saying it has been packed already. Then, on the other end, it cannot be found.

Just as with currency, the Pentagon's DTR Part IV Attachment K1, which helps govern PCS moves, states that small, valuable items such as jewelry should be packed in your suitcase and taken with you. If you do have to ship any jewelry items in your household goods, you should have the items appraised prior to your move and have the items listed on the high-value inventory.

Parts Box

This one more often gets misplaced at delivery than actually lost. It's not uncommon for the unloading to be done, and the parts box to not be anywhere in sight. A day or two later you may find it hidden in a corner under bedroom boxes. As industry standard and per the DTR, the parts box should be labeled as "Box #1" on the inventory.

If you are checking off inventory numbers as boxes come off the truck (and you should), take that box and set it aside so you know where it is so your furniture can be assembled at the end of the day. Some folks will even request to take the parts box physically with them to ensure it is secured. If the box does go completely missing you can claim full replacement value on each item that cannot be assembled, but keep in mind some companies will sell replacement hardware sets.

Christmas Décor

For whatever reason, many folks will find they are missing Christmas ornaments and décor. But because holiday decorations happen only once a year, they might not notice until months after delivery. While moving these items yourself or taking them with you may not be possible unless you are doing a personally procured move (previously called a DITY), the best thing to do is to have a good inventory of your items, take pictures and do a quick unpack of your holiday items when you get to your new duty station, even if it isn't the holiday season. Doing that will help you be able to identify what is missing early in the process, and hopefully have that box found somewhere.

International Treasures

It's no secret that when you get stationed at an amazing overseas location, you'll want to bring back all the amazing goodies, pieces of furniture and collectibles that you can. Often you will find German beer steins, Russian nesting dolls or other items specific to a location missing when you unpack. The best thing to do if you do not want to mail them ahead is to group them together and put them on the high-value inventory. While the high-value inventory may not keep the theft or loss from happening, it does allow you to list individual items on the inventory, so they are better accounted for.

How to Find Those Lost Items

Start with a good inventory. Having a good inventory of your own possessions can be really helpful. Not only does it come in handy in the event that something is damaged or lost during your move, but it can help in the case of needing to file any insurance claims. If you have not already, now would be a good time to go through your home to make a general inventory of what you own. While you are at it, take a picture of each room and a video of your electronics working. You should also secure before your moving crews arrive and carry with you to your next location anything that is highly valuable to you that could easily "walk away."

Return things that aren't yours. It's not uncommon to end a PCS move with items that don't belong to you but were somehow left in your shipment. The movers will sometimes refuse to take them back, you might not notice the items until they are already gone. You can also call the Transportation Service Provider (TSP) directly.

Talk to others who are moving. If contacting your TSP doesn't resolve the problem, you can turn to Facebook. Lost During My PCS is a Facebook group with over 31,000 members. The group was acquired a few years ago by PCSgrades and is run by a group of spouses who work on PCS reform. The intention is for families to post items missing and extra items they've found in their shipments to find the rightful owner. Each year the group is successful in reuniting many items to their rightful owners to include family pictures, class rings, military awards and plaques, Fuji walking sticks, and other sentimental items.

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