Q. Do you mind receiving offers that are lower than your asking price?
A. I promise never to be offended by a lower offer, as long as you promise not to be offended if I can't accept it. Often, I can accept a lower offer. Sometimes, I cannot. And every now and again you'll find that we can meet somewhere in the middle. I don't mind sincere haggling. I'm a collector, too. I do object to recreational haggling -- that's when someone makes a habit out of dickering over price and never follows through OR agrees to purchases and then backs out on a regular basis. I certainly do understand that folks have unexpected expenses and occasionally need to back out of a deal. But when it happens repeatedly, then I do get a little concerned. But yes -- by all means -- feel free to make counter offers. Sometimes I can accept and sometimes not.
Q. Do I have to use the online shopping cart to order something?
A. PLEASE DON'T. It is not working for anyone. We don't know why but continue to investigate. What's best is to email cwartifax@gmail.com and place your order. If you can't use email, you can call 815-254-0144. See the note below for the best times to reach me.
Q. What's the deal with shipping and insurance?
A. Very small purchases (size-wise) like CDV's, patriotic covers, a few bullets or an inexpensive button or relic can be shipped VERY affordably. I'll be happy to send images, covers and currency via FIRST CLASS mail in regular envelopes -- protected by stiff cardboard and/or a Mylar sleeve, of course -- for a buck or two. And bullets and relics can often be shipped in a small, padded mailer for the same. First Class is a tad slower than Priority, so you're always free to request the latter. Larger buys in terms of size and value usually are best shipped in a Priority Mail Box. I charge a flat five bucks, even though the cost to me is more. If you're buying heavy items like bullets or several buckles, the charge is around seven dollars. Shells, guns and swords usually require at least $20.00. Insurance is not required on any purchase under $200.00 but I can't be held liable for damage or theft that might occur in shipping. Over $200.00, I think it's best to insure.

However -- I have been known to occasionally pay either shipping or insurance or even both when a repeat customer makes a moderate to large purchase. If that's what it takes to get the deal done, don't be afraid to ask if you're a repeat client. All items are sent USPS. I have had nothing but trouble with Fed Ex and UPS. Lost and damaged packages. I am sure they are very good in the main, it's just been my misfortune to have problems with them. I have shipped and received at least three thousand -- and probably many more -- packages and letters relating to this business since 1998. All through the USPS and only one small item ever came up missing.
ONE THING I NEVER DO: I will never charge for "handling" (what does that even mean?) or pad my shipping charge to cover the cost of boxes, labels, packing materials and so forth. If I overcharge for shipping, let me know and I will either send you the difference in check or Pay Pal form -- OR -- give you store credit. If I undercharge for shipping, consider that an extra perk. You are not liable.

Q. When is best to place a phone order?
A. If you want to make a purchase and can't mess with email, please DO call 1-815-254-0144 between nine and eight Monday-Saturday and between one p.m. and nine on Sundays. Remember, I am on Central Time. You might have to leave a message or I might be here to answer. I won't be able to chat for hours but I'll do my best to answer any questions you have and get all your shipping information.

Q. Do you do appraisals?
A. Yes, but never over the phone. I have to see the item. Pictures may prove helpful, but it's even better if I handle the item. Please don't ever send me something to appraise without first asking permission to ship it. I might be out of town or it might be an item I am not able to authoritatively comment on. I am not an expert in every area. (I know buttons, plates and documents best. But if I don't know an item as well as I should, I know where to look and who to talk to!) Let's swap emails first and go from there. If we do arrange for you to ship something to me, you pay shipping and insurance both ways. There is a small charge for appraisals. If I end up purchasing the item or taking it as a consignment, the appraisal is free.
Q. What's your consignment policy?
A. I will send a detailed flier to you upon request. I am particularly keen to attract very high-end items to my web site so my consignment fees for them are uncommonly low. (Like crazy-low!) Please don't ever send me something as a consignment or for me to purchase outright without first asking permission. Believe it or not, I have had people send me boxes of stuff out of the blue. I want consignments and I want to buy items. But not unsolicited. That rule is in place for your protection as well as my own.

Q. What forms of payment can be made?
A. Personal check, money order, cashiers check/bank check are fine. With repeat clients, I often take personal checks and just ship the item as soon as I have the check. I've not had a single problem in 17 years. Of course, if a purchase is higher-end in terms of price, I may choose to wait for the check to clear. I will accept Pay Pal but you MUST email me first to arrange that form of payment. Most of the time, I treat your personal check just like a Pay Pal payment in terms of how quickly I ship (usually within 48 hours unless I am on the road).
Q. Do you accept lay-away orders?
A. I do. I prefer that you reserve lay-away (or "lay-awake" lol) orders for items/groups of items over $500.00. Lay-away is particularly helpful if a customer wants to purchase a number of items at once, or a very expensive single item. I ask lay-away clients to put approximately 1/3rd down. You have 60 days to complete payment, including shipping costs. For orders over a thousand dollars, a 90 day arrangement is acceptable. Here's the hard part: If you default and do not pay by the agreed upon deadline, I will have to keep the down payment and return the item or items to inventory.
Q. What if I see you've made a mistake in your description of an item?
A. Please, please, please email me or call. No collector or dealer is an expert on every area. And even where we tend to shine, we can make mistakes. I would rather be corrected about something than leave it and be thought to be less than honest. I certainly do have and read my reference books, but I don't have a photographic memory. Hey, I was spelling Culpeper with three "p's" for years until someone came up at a show and told me I was wrong. I am never offended by this. I am grateful.

Q. How do I protect myself from purchasing a counterfeit item or a fantasy piece that never existed in the first place?
A. I can't tell you how many new collectors have been discouraged, sometimes permanently, from collecting Civil War relics because they have been burned by fakes, frauds and fantasy pieces. (A fantasy piece is an item that never existed in the first place and has been manufactured and aged to appear to be a period Civil War item.) Here are the "rules of engagement" you MUST follow if you want to build a high-quality collection:
1. Only purchase Civil War items from reputable dealers who offer a lifetime guarantee for authenticity. If you purchase an item from me that I described as "Civil War" and it turns out not to be, I refund your money. As long as I am alive. Now to be fair, no dealer is going to accept a return because just anyone told you your purchase was "bad". But if you show me, or any other reputable dealer, reasonable evidence that what you bought was not Civil War, you'll get your money back. Reasonable evidence would include reference book citations that can be verified or a letter from an acknowledged expert in a particular area...be it buttons, buckles, autographs, firearms or what have you. Most Civil War dealers are very honorable people. I have linked to a number of them on my LINKS page. (Of course, I hope you'll do business with me first!) But the Civil War item you buy at a flea market, an auction or via an online auction service will probably NOT come with the guarantee that I, and most of my colleagues, provide.
2. Reference books, my friends. Buy them. Own them. Above all, read them. Far too many collectors have complained to me that they don't have the money to pay for books...they need to save it for relics. That may be a hard reality for those of you who -- like me -- collect on a tight budget. But face it. The $40 you spend on a reference book will be worth its weight in gold if it saves you from purchasing a fake or a fantasy piece. You can also ask loved ones to buy reference books for you when holidays and birthdays roll around. My rule is never to leave a Civil War show without purchasing at least one reference book.
3. It's getting to be a bit of a cliche, but it's nonetheless fact. "If it sounds too good to be true, it is." Have you been offered a Confederate belt buckle for $300? An Abraham Lincoln autograph for $200? Has anyone ever boasted to you about the original slave tag they bought for 50 bucks? Yeah. Trust me. Fakes...all of them. Do miracles happen? Sometimes...but very rarely. I've met people with entire flats of belt buckles purchased at auction or at flea markets for bargain prices. And almost every time, they've all been fakes. You will rarely "get over" on a reputable Civil War dealer (ie: getting a rare button or image for a song). But you WILL purchase an authentic item that will appreciate in value. And you'll be able to sleep.
Q. What should I collect? Where do I even begin?
A. Let me answer the first question, first. My friend Dan Binder (one of the foremost experts on buttons -- and a lot of other stuff!) said something very wise: "Like what you collect. And collect what you like". The idea being, don't let anyone pressure you into collecting what THEY think is cool or most interesting. By all means, share their interest. But if you like bullets or if you are intrigued by currency, collect THAT! I have a friend who loves eagle plates in really rough, dug condition. There is just something about that that captures his imagination. Good for him! There is a home for every relic and a relic for every home.

If you would rather do what a lot of collectors do and try to amass a general collection of Civil War items, then collect a representative example of items in every category as your budget permits. While it's always wise to purchase the very best condition item available, that's not always practicable. Sometimes, such an item is priced highly precisely because of it's fine condition. So don't be afraid to purchase a button or carbine or artillery shell that's just the best you can afford at the time. Remember, you can always upgrade later and then sell the lesser example.
Q. Are Civil War artifacts and documents a good financial investment?
A. This answer requires a lot of nuance. Generally speaking, Civil War items tend to increase in value over time. For instance, the US belt plate I purchased in 1980 for $65.00 would now retail easily for $295.00. I remember buying gilted eagle "I" infantry buttons for $2-$5 in the late 70's and now the nicest examples can fetch $35 to $50 in overcoat size. I wish I had collected CDVs and GAR/UCV items back in the day. They have gone up in price exponentially, exploding in the late 90's with the rise of eBay. But do remember that things don't always follow an upward trajectory. The economy, newly-discovered information about certain items and the sudden release of large collections or the discovery of large caches can change everything. The NC-8 North Carolina button was one sold with some frequency in the $700-$850 range in perfect, non-dug condition. These days, you find average ones as low as $300 and really fine, backmarked examples in the $500 neighborhood. What happened? Someone discovered a large cache of these buttons in the early 2000's and they began to appear everywhere...on eBay, on the old Relic Auction site, on dealer web sites, at shows and in antique shops and at public auctions. See what I mean? You *can* purchase items that go down in value or that just stagnate for long periods of time. This is why, at least in my opinion, a collector's top priorities should be enjoyment and preservation of American History...and having fun. Only then should investment be considered. I realize good folks may disagree and that's okay. But if you're not appreciating the historicity of this stuff...and if you're stressing about it all the time, there is nothing wrong with putting it aside for awhile and taking up golf.
Q. What if there is an item or a certain type of item that I want but you don't have in stock?
A. I usually know where to go to find it. I often broker deals for clients with other dealers. And other dealers have done it for me. Let me know what you want, collect, etc. I keep a database list!
Q. Do you mind very small orders?
A. Are you kidding? There is NO order too small (or large lol). If you see a four dollar bullet and that's all you feel like buying, go for it. I'll pop it in a padded mailer for a couple buck's worth of first class shipping and we're good to go. Collecting is supposed to be fun and I find a simple round ball or period engraving every bit as enjoyable as a rare buckle or autograph. I treat every customer like I would wish to be treated, regardless of how much money is being transacted.
Q. Do you buy items from customers or visitors to your site?
A. All the time! Sometimes, I'm tapped out. If that's the case, I won't string you along. I have a list of other dealers I know you can trust and I will gladly refer you to them. Please remember that dealers have overhead -- web site costs, utilities, travel expenses, insurance, display materials, shipping materials, security and sometimes staff salary & benefits. In other words, please don't be offended if a dealer offers you 50% of retail. Maybe even less on a really common item. He or she may have that item for months. Sometimes years (but hopefully not confuse)! You never have to accept a dealer's offer, of course. It is considered to be ill-mannered to see what a dealer will offer you and then turn around and put your item on eBay now that you're armed with information about value. I will always tell you what I think I can retail the item for and what I can pay you. Please remember also that consignment is also an option.