Buying a deck of tarot cards is more difficult than it seems. You might find that there are several myths surrounding the acquisition of your first tarot card deck: you may be told by ‘those who know’ that you should never buy your first set of cards – it should be given to you by a trusted friend or loved one. Or you may be instructed to buy a certain deck because that’s the only one you’ll ever need. Or you might be dissuaded from purchasing one at all because tarot cards are a tool of the Devil.
They are myths because they’re not true. You can choose and buy your own cards. You don’t have to buy one that someone else recommends and they certainly aren’t the tool of the Devil, or Jesus or any other deity/force of evil.
Guidelines for buying your first tarot deck:
- Take your time and do some research
- Buy a deck that appeals to you visually
- Look for a deck that has the classic 78-card 22/56 structure – there are many that don’t conform to that pattern.
- Choose one that has full illustrations on every minor card. It will make it easier for you, especially if you are just beginning.
How to select your tarot deck
You may be wondering where to buy your first deck. More importantly than where to buy tarot cards is which deck will you choose? It is very tempting to impulsively buy the first or prettiest deck you find but that might not be the best idea. If you are intending to take the art of tarot reading seriously then you should spend some time researching. Even then there’s still no guarantee that you will connect with the deck. Sometimes experienced readers cannot take to certain tarot decks or the cards seem to refuse to cooperate when they try to read with them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the cards – it’s simply that the reader has an internal block which prevents them bonding with the deck.
It’s important to remember that we are talking about a mass-produced product of images laminated on to card stock. Until you begin working with them they don’t have any magical properties, so treat your purchase as you would any other. Read reviews and see if you can find online images of each of the cards in the decks that appeal to you. If you are lucky enough to have a book store or pagan emporium in your area, you may find that they have a selection of display decks that you can open and look through. By all means take advice from the proprietors but bear in mind that they may not be tarot readers themselves.
Online reviews are very useful, as previous purchasers may warn of poor quality cardstock or packaging. There’s no point having a beautiful deck if the cards start delaminating, scuffing or bending after a few uses.
Second-hand tarot decks
Buying a second-hand deck is tempting, especially if it’s a rare one. However, these are really collectors’ items and you should wait until you are more experienced before using one to read with. Even though they are merely cards and images, they will have absorbed the energy of the person who used them.
What tarot system is the best?
There are many different ‘systems’ in tarot. Some reverse the traditional suits of Swords and Wands. Some rename the suits entirely. Some introduce extra cards or even have fewer. Many have keywords on them that can hinder as much as help. The very old traditional decks, such as Tarot de Marseilles, don’t have illustrated minor arcana cards, instead they look a little like playing cards and are called ‘pips’.
Again, do your research. You will find that one of the most popular decks is the Rider-Waite. It’s the world’s best seller and for good reason. The illustrations are clear and the symbolism makes sense. There are also many other decks based on the Rider-Waite – these are called ‘Rider-Waite clones’. There is nothing wrong with choosing a clone. Another advantage is that almost all tarot books are based on some version, or clone of, the Rider-Waite.
Some good Rider-Waite versions and clones
- The Original Rider-Waite illustrated by Pamela (Pixie) Coleman Smith. Her illustrations have become classics and often the deck is referred to the Rider-Waite-Smith.
- The Universal Waite Tarot Deck – using Pixie Smith’s original illustrations that have been recoloured by the artist, Mary Hanson-Roberts. This is a very attractive deck.
- The Robin Wood Tarot – a pagan version of RWS, with possibly the best illustration of the Devil card ever.
- The Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti – a very glamourous clone.
- The Golden Tarot by Kat Black – a collage deck using many classical works of art.
Tarot deck and book sets
Buying a deck and book set is a good idea. You will have a good basic reference book geared to that particular deck. They are more expensive than a deck alone, but, in most cases, well worth the extra money. Word of warning – they are very attractive in their slipcases, so, as before, do the research or you might end up with an expensive mistake.
Where to buy tarot cards
Your first stop for purchasing cards could be any one of a number of places. Amazon, Llewellyn, your local pagan store, eBay and even mainstream book shops sell them nowadays. Here are some useful links that will take you straight to the tarot category of each retailer:
We hope you found this useful and wish you all the best on your tarot journey.