Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do you have an open shop?

No, we don't.  We sell online, at book fairs, at stamp shows, and by catalog.  We usually set up at between six and eight book fairs and stamp shows each year; click on the "Events" tab above for more information about our upcoming calendar.  We usually issue about four to six digital catalogs each year; if you'd like to be placed on our catalog mailing list, please send us an email

2.  What payments do you accept?

At no additional charge to buyers, we accept US$ cash, personal checks made in US$ from U.S bank accounts, PayPal bank or credit card transactions in US$, domestic and international Zelle money transfers in US$, and international money orders or bank cheques in US$ as long as no associated fees will be charged to us.

We will also accept international wire transfers in US$, however for these we will add US$50 to your invoice to cover the accociated bank processing fees.

For high-dollar value transactions, we may require payment by cash, check, Zelle, or wire transfer, and we may not ship you item until payment receipt has cleared and been confirmed by our bank.  This may on occassion take up to two weeks. 

3. Will you tell me more about your catalogs?

Yes, we usually issue between four to six catalogs each year. When we do, we post them to this website and send them by email to customers who have purchased items from us in the past, have asked to be on our mailing list, or provided contact information when registering for a librarians' confernce. If you’d like to be sure that you are included on our mailing list the next time we send out an e-mail catalog, please send email to kurt@sanftleben.com.   Additionally, we often distribute these catalogs in physical form at book fairs.

Oh, if you are currently receiving our digital catalogs and no longer want them clogging your inbox; just send us an email to us at kurt@sanftleben.com, and we'll promptly remove you from the mailing list.

4. Do you have any items that are not listed on your website?

Yes, we do. At any given time we probably have a couple of thousand things that you won’t find on-line at our website. Some, we simply haven't yet cataloged, but most of our unlisted stock is relatively inexpensive (under $100) ephemera and postal history covers that we take with us to book fairs and stamp shows.  If you are looking something specific, just send us an email at kurt@sanftleben.com, and we'll check our stock

We often list our older stock on eBay, but you'll almost inevitably find prices less here at our own website.  Occasionally, we will auction unlisted material at eBay auctions;  this link will take you our current eBay listings.

5. Will you help me find an item, like a book, if you don’t have it on-hand? What about letters, photographs, scrapbooks or other paper collectibles about a specific topic or person?

If you are a well-established customer or if you are a new customer who would like our long-term assistance in helping you build a quality collection, you bet we will.  

On the other hand, if you are simply looking for one or several inexpensive things, probably not.  That said, we encourgage you to let us know your interests by using the Topic Notification service found in the left column of most pages.  Once you do that, you'll automatically be notified when we list new materials in your field(s) of interest.   

6. How do you pack and ship the items that you sell?

We normally ship larger items inside standard or adjustable boxes.  Whenever possible, we will ship documents, letters, and similar paper items in flat mailers with stiff protective inserts or in adjustable flat boxes.  Prints and maps will either be shipped flat or rolled in a cylindrical tube; if you have preference let us know. 

Of the thousands of things that we've packed this way since we've been in business, we've only had one item damaged in shipment, and it was run over by a post office truck and would have been ruined no matter how much paper, bubblewrap, padding, or cardboard was used to protect it. That said, if you have any special packing requests, let us know, and we may be able to accommodate them.

Domestic shipping by our chosen method of delivery (usually USPS Media Mail, First Class Mail, or standard Priority Mail) is free of charge. We will ship by USPS Express Mail, UPS, and FEDEX when requested, however additional charges may apply. Insurance—our own, not USPS, UPS, or FEDEX—is included at no extra cost when shipped by these means.  At your request and cost, we will purchase additional USPS, UPS, or FEDEX insurance for you, but it really isn't necessary.

7. Will you ship outside of the United States?

Yes and no.  While we ship outside of the United States all the time; there are some countries (for a variety of reasons) where we will not send items. When we do ship outside of the United States, we will only do so by the method of our choice (usually USPS Priority Mail International, USPS Express Mail International, USPS Registered First Class Mail International, or FedEx), and the cost to you could be substantial.  

Please don't ask us to enter false values on customs documents.  We won't do it.  It is against the law and would negate our insurance coverage.  If you are buying from outside of the United States, please take your country's customs fees into consideration befor placing an order. 

Also, we are not  are not registered to collect VAT on purchases from the United Kingdom, therefore we are unable to ship items valued at under 135 GBP to the U.K.  However, if you are a U.K. customer and would like to purchase goods valued at less than 135 GBP, you can request shipment to a friend or associate of yours with an address in the U.S., and they can send it to you.  That said, we accept no responsibility beyond delivering your package to the U.S. address that you designate.

As well, we no longer ship to Germany and France.  Both countries have now established excessively bureaucratic hurdles and hoops for dealers with regard to "Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)" requirements. These are simply too  burdensome for us.  If you are from either of those countries, we won't be able accept orders requesting shipment there.  As an alternative, you can request shipment to a friend or associate of yours with an address in the U.S., and they can send it to you.  However, if you do, we accept no responsibility beyond delivering your package to the U.S. address that you designate.  

If we receive an order requesting delivery to a country to which we will not ship, we will promptly cancel it and refund any money received.  

8. If I buy something and don’t like it, may I return it for a refund?  

Generally, unless it is otherwise noted in one of our descriptions, we accept returns for any reason for full refund (less any shipping and insurance fees) if we are notified of the return in advance, if we receive the returned item within ten working days of your receipt, and if the item is returned in the exact same condition it was sent. 

However, on a case-by-case basis, it is possible that we may not accept returns of letters, documents, and photographs with unique or historic content that is unavailable elsewhere.  In the past, unscrupulous customers have returned items like this after making digital copies for research use and/or publication.  

In the unlikely event that any item you receive from us is ever determined by a mutually recognized authority to be inauthentic, we will provide a full refund (to include shipping) at any time if it is returned by the original purchaser in the same condition as sent.

9. Do you buy the type of old things that you sell?

Yes, we have to buy the things that we sell; that is the only way we can get them.  We generally only buy quality items that interest us and that we believe are sellable. We are always buying unique diaries, journals, ledgers, correspondence collections, photograph albums, scrapbooks, and similar material that in some way tell an interesting story about life in America.  We also buy printed ephemera that piques our interest.  Only on infrequent occassions do we buy a book; it would have to be something very unusual and very interesting.

If you have something you’d like to sell, please send an e-mail message to kurt@sanftleben.com telling us a little about it. We'll let you know if we might be interested in purchasing what you have for sale and, if so, probably ask for more information or images.  We will also ask you the price that you would like to receive from us for your item, as we don't make offers for unpriced material. If we find your price reasonable, we will accept it subject to our final examination of the item.  We can then make arrangements to meet and complete the transaction or you can send your item to us. If you send your item to us, we will promptly examine it and either send you payment or return the item.

10. Why should I sell my items to you, or any other dealer, when you are going sell them to another collector at a higher price? Why don’t I just do that myself?

That’s a good question. We know several part-time dealers who started in this business for just that reason, and you may enjoy selling too. If you do, the biggest problem you'll face is that you will need to find customers who want to buy what you have, and that's not easy.  So . . . if you are only looking to turn your items into ready cash, selling them yourself probably isn’t for you. That said, you can open your own on-line store and sell what you have via the internet, but you’ll incur significant costs to do so, you’ll have to comply with your state’s business and tax laws, it will likely be a while before you master writing descriptions that attract buyers, and you‘ll probably find that it takes what seems to be an eternity for your material to sell. As an alternative, you could try to sell what you have via eBay auctions, but you may take a significant loss, or if you price them too high, the books may not sell at all, and you’ll still be out the associated listing fees. However, if you sell what you have to a dealer—us included—you will turn it into immediate cash. 

11. Will you sell things for me on consignment?

Possilby, but not unless what you have is exceptionally scarce, exceptionally desireable, and/or exceptionally valuable. We have a hard enough time keeping up with our own inventory. If you’d like to sell something to us, please see the answer to Question #9 above.

12. Will you appraise my items?

We have greatly cut back on the number of appraisals that we do.  In fact, we seldom do appraisals at all any more.  We will only do appraisals of items or collections that we find personally intersting.  

If you see any other information about appraisals on our website, it is out of date.  If we agree to do an appraisal for you, our fees will vary based upon its complexity.  As a minimum, we  charge an hourly rate of $200/hour to conduct any appraisal. 

If you decide that you would like us to appraise what you have, you should be aware that we—like all booksellers and stamp dealers who would provide you with such an appraisal—are then ethically bound not to subsequently purchase your items. 

If you simply want us to make an offer to buy your material, please see the answer to Question #9 above.

If you would like more information about the possiblity of us conducting an appraisal for you, please contact us at kurt@sanftleben.com.

13. Have you read all of the letters and other documents that you sell?

Yes, we've read every letter, document, or similar item in our inventory, and we frequently will provide a typed transcript of the item to purchasing customers; sorry, but you much purchase an item to get its transcript.

14. What is the rarest/oldest/most expensive thing that you have sold?

When it comes to true rarities, our stock is rather sparse. The preponderance of our sales are in the $100 to $2,000 range. That said, we have sold many items for between $2,000 and $10,000 and a number for between $10,000 and $25,000. Also, we have sold several things between $25,000 and $60.000.

The oldest thing that we have sold was a cunieform tablet from around 2300 BC.

15. Where can I get those clear, protective mylar envelopes and backing cards you use for paper collectibles?  How about other supplies to protect or ship items in my collection?

Protective mylar envelopes, backing cards, collection protection items, and shipping supplies are available from a number of online companies.  The two that we frequently use are ULINE and Bags Unlimited.

16. When I bought an item it came with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from the seller. Does this make it more valuable?  

Probably not. Most Certificates of Authenticity are a dime a dozen; anyone can print one up. They are especially prevalent among some sellers on eBay. We're skeptical people, so we are always suspicious of dealers who offer such incentives as part of their marketing scheme. 

On the other hand, certificates by three well-known companies (Global Authentics LLC, James Spence Authentication, Professional Sports Authenticator PSA)/DNA) will add value to autographs, baseball cards, and some paper memorabilia.  That said, if you check online, you'll also find many collectors who question certificates issued by these companies.

For postal history, certifications issued by The Philatelic Foundation, American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX) , or the Confederate Stamp Alliance are golden.  They will usually add considerable value to a rare or scarce item.  Certifications from other firms or organizations usually will not.

If you are considering buying an expensive collectible, we recommend only buying from a dealer who is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) or the American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA).

The ABAA is the oldest association of professional antiquarian booksellers in America, and membership cannot be obtained simply by paying a fee or signing an agreement. Before even being considered for membership, dealers must prove that they are established, knowledgeable, and of excellent reputation. Prospective members must be sponsored by current members, and undergo a rigorous screening process. The average ABAA member has been in the antiquarian book business more than twenty years, and the association requires members to follow its Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct.

Paragraph 5 of the ABAA Code of Ethics states, "An Association member shall vouch for the authenticity of all materials offered for sale. . . . Should it be determined that material offered as authentic is not authentic or is questionable, that material shall be returnable for a full cash refund or other mutually agreeable arrangement.

For similar reasons, if you are buying an expensive postal history item, we recommend buying from a member of the American Stamp Dealers Association (ASDA), the National Stamp Dealers Association (NSDA), or an American Philatelic Society member who is also listed in that organization's Dealers Directory. 

We don't issue COAs; your purchase receipt documents our ABAA/ASDA guarantee. We will accept a return at any time for a full refund including shipping if a recognized expert determines something purchased from us is not authentic, provided the item is returned to us by the original purchaser in the same condition as it was sent.

17. It sounds like you might be a little down on eBay. I thought eBay was a good place to buy and sell collectible items; is it?

Possibly, yes; but you must be very careful. We’d estimate that well over 95% of the 'collectible' items listed for sale on eBay are either damaged, misdescribed, or not worth the cost of shipping. The eBay world has been inundated with both novices and crooks. If you decide to buy collectibles that are listed on eBay, pay close attention to a seller’s feedback; avoid bidding on any auction unless the seller has a feedback rating above 99% positive. Even that is no guarantee that the seller is either honest or knowledgeable; however, it’s a start. If condition descriptions are not provided in detail—and preferably supported with photographs or scans—you’re better off passing on the item.

Still, it's a crapshoot.  Ebay is swamped with paper 'collectibles' of all kinds.  You have to search through tons of chaff to find something of value, but it can be worth the effort.  Do beware, however that many, many listings of paper collectibles are not for original items.  Whether through ignorance or intentional deceit, many sellers identify these reprints, replicas, and forgeries as originals.  Especially beware of Lincoln assassination newspapers, Declarations of Independence, and printed materials related to slavery, especially slave sale broadsides and posters.  (The late Americana expert Bill Reese published an excellent article on fake slave sale broadsides, and they abound, not just listed on eBay but at well-known public auction houses). If you see something that looks like an obvious rarity listed on eBay, the overwhelming odds are that it is is not genuine.  Save yourself some later heartbreak; unless you willing to take a gamble, buy things like this only from dealers who are members of well-established professional trade associations like those mentioned above.