Even before the 911 security increases, I routinely lost items from my checked luggage. I even lost an entire tool bag filled with expensive testers and had tools once.
Calling the airline is futile, they would outright tell you there was little chance of recovering stolen items. I'd say in total, I've lost 3-4 thousand dollars worth of belongings to those thieving SOB's mostly because you can only carry on so much, you are forced to gamble with the rest of it.
Fly with guns! Seriously. Or even BB guns, starter pistols, flare guns... Any of these items, properly packed, means that you can padlock your luggage with non-TSA locks and fly your valuable stuff with much less risk of it being stolen. Lots of info on the web about how to do this, but it's pretty straight forward:
Get a lockable trunk; unload the dangerous stuff; declare the weapons at check-in and fill-out the orange card the agent will provide you; Airline agent may inspect the firearm or send you to a designated TSA screening, after which you get to put your own lock on and no one is allowed to open it unless you are present :-)
(Sorry for the late reply - I've been traveling, with tools, equipment, and guns ;-)