Displaying cards in mounts and frames. The minimum you need to know if you are a collector or reseller-
The important things first: These are often valuable, or irreplacable, so it is important to keep them in conservation standard mounts. Bevel cut is the best, preferably computer cut for accuracy, not die stamped mass produced mounts, as the bevel cut mounts are thicker, and space your cards away from the glass if you frame them, this is very important to keep them safe, and also looks far better, and there is very little difference in price. Dont settle for less. If you have cards in die-stamped mounts (the only ones you could get for cards until about 10 years ago) do think about re-mounting them. Plenty of mount suppliers and framers now have CMC mount cutters which can produce first class mounts at regular mount prices.
Conservation standard mounts are acid free, the colour should not bleed, and the cores will not discolour (they are not just not just neutral ph), and should not to be confused with any old "white core" mounts, many of which are simply budget board with bleached or whitened woodpulp core (the cheapest the mount supplier can get his hands on in many cases) so if in doubt ask your framer or mount supplier if they are selling you proper conservation board, which is usually cotton core, rather than woodpulp.
Cards are mostly made from woodpulp paper, which is badly affected by the acid it contains - as the pulp comes from trees, which contain lignin, this lignin produces acid, and the acid "burns" paper and board- hence the browning you see. Leave a newspaper in a window for a couple of days, and see the results!
This acid is provoked into turning your cards brown by ultra violet light present in daylight and a lot of artifcial lights, specially flourescent (and this includes many "energy saving" lights) The conservation board helps by absorbing and blocking this acid, and not releasing it back into your cards. Older cards, particularly between the wars and up to the late 1950s were made from very low grade stock available, and this can be very acidic, and the cards can be damaged very quickly by UV light and cheap mounting techniques and mount board. You also need to bear in mind that these cards were given away, and may have been produced to a price, and the long life and quality was not often a consideration when they were made, so the best thing you can do is give them a fighting chance now.
Single sided or double sided mounts? If you opt for double sided, it is best to choose "to fit" mounts which cover the edges of the card. Mounts which fit around the outside of the card allow the cards to come in contact with the glass, and this is not recommended. Even worse are the single sided mount with a glass backing, because the cards are against the glass in the back, and run a severe risk of sticking to the glass if the humidity/temperature changes. If you dont want to read the backs of the cards, you should buy a mount with a backing (or "liner") board. Any reputable framer or mount supplier will make sure that this backing at least has an acid free paper face, or is an acid free and conservation standard board. Full information on mount board standards can be found at the Fine Art Trade Guild website
Presentation: For collectors and retailers, covering the edges of the cards gives a better uniform presentation, and is now favoured by many collectors. It is understood that most dealers in britain and on eBay do fairly and accurately describe the condition of their cards, after all a dealer's reputation is important. So don't assume that some unscruplulous swine is trying to disguise grubby corners. What he has actually done is give the cards a good air-space (essential if they are later framed) and actually spent the extra few pence on a good quality mount. Do ask how they have been fixed. Any fixings should be 100 percent reversible, and that means gummed tape not masking tape (the glue seeps into the cards and stains them all the way through).
Glazing: Many framers recommend "styrene" plastic glazing, optically this is the same as glass, does not discolour, and is safe to handle, as well as safe and light to ship. Dont confuse this with "plastic glass" from DIY chain stores, which will discolour and become brittle and dull in a surprisingly short time. If you are having clear backs, you must consider that glass is very heavy in comparison to acrylic glazing, and that the hooks the picture hangs on (or nails in the wall in some cases) may break it, it is a fair weight hanging on the wall, and from time to time you - or someone else- will be taking it down to see the backs of the cards (otherwise why have the clear backs!) and there is a risk of breakage every time, or even injury and litigation particularly if you have hung the item in a public place (see how many pubs and clubs sport these card displays on the walls, and you'll get the idea). For the ultimate in UV light protection, ask your framer if they can fit UV resistant glass. This is not as expensive as you may think, and gives 98 percent protection. Consider this if your cards are particularly valuable. At the other end of the spectrum Museum Glass (or true-conservation glass) gives close to 100 percent light protection, but at a very hefty price.
Preservation: Best tip is dont hang them in bright light unless its unavoidable, specially sunlight without some sort of protection (so thats the conservatory a no go area!). You do have to weigh up the costs against the benefits, and at the end of the day you do want to look at and enjoy these cards, and maybe resell them one day or hand on to future generations in good condition, so make the most of them and enjoy them. They wern't made to be kept in a dark humidy controlled drawer in a vault.
COA (Certificates of authenticity) Mostly not worth the paper they are written on, unless thay come from highly reputable valuers like Sotherbys or Leys. Dont pay extra for a COA, but if one is included, then its nice to have it. Not having one won't devalue your cards.
Buying cards on eBay E-Bay's a great place to buy collectors items. I dont let myself be put off by the odd and rare negative feedback if a seller has one, providing nothing is recent. Ive bought plenty of cards and pictures on eBay, some job lots and some single items, (it is my business, I'm a picture framer) and imho a lot of the "problems" people get with items is misunderstanding the definition of "mint" "good" etc. Most of the cards I have bought have been in general far better then the condition described. So as a rule of thumb if the seller has had many sales and specialises in cards, and has a decent recent feedback record, you can usually assume they have stated the condition on the safe side. I have not been disappointed yet.
I re-mount and reframe a lot of collectors goods from TV auction channels for a few of my customers which you see on eBay. Most of my trade customers who resell on eBay ask for a decent quality at a fair price. Unfortunately its only the amateurs and get-rich-quick (legends in their own lunch time) merchants who ask "how cheap can you do it for ....." a reputable dealer or seller knows his customers are not dummies, and wants your repeat business, so they'll be straightforward and honest with their descriptions, and wont be pinching pennies on the materials.
see some of our cigarette and tea card mounts here http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Moonshine-Pictures