Folly, Foibles and Fun of Tarot by S. Zoe Hecht

So you want to buy a tarot deck?  Where do you go?  How much do you spend?  Is the deck rare, historical, gender-based, collectible or just the current rage?  Will you love it?  Or will you discard it after a few days even after you've paid money for it?

If you are like me: you do a search on availability and price, ensure that publication numbers (ISBN) match the name of the deck you saw and then type:  I find myself searching the site by latest, oldest, highest and lowest price, and then searching again.  Sometimes I go back as often as half a dozen times a day. I may even look in a region, one of the newest search possibilities.  Do I care if the deck comes from Mars?  No! I bought a deck from an Italian auction on impulse when clearly the deck is available in the United States. EBay makes it so sweet. You have your own watching page and you watch until you overbid, forget to bid or just find yourself bidding on tarot decks you don't need, or ultimately don't want. You might, as I have done, just bid on a deck you already own but forgot about.

Try as I might, if I have a bid on a deck I really want, I may attempt to relax, eat dinner, talk to friends, put the kids to bed, turn on the television, or even go for a walk.  But in the back of my mind, I am wondering, "Should I put a bid on that deck?"  I walk faster, eat hastily, read the bedtime story quickly and rush back to eBay.  In between eBay searches, I might speculate on who else might bid; I plot and try to develop a bid strategy.  I change strategies from bidding at once to postponing my bid to closing time.  I start to make friends and enemies with people bidding against me.  I whip over to Rev. Gina Pace's site to see what Gina has to say about it. "Well, that's Gina," I say to myself, if I find her review not in agreement with my untutored opinion. What about Diane?  Will she agree? On to Tarot Passages to read whether Diane Wilkes or a guest reviewer may have liked or loved the deck.  Since both sites may have more than one review, my fascination grows rather than abates. Why don't they agree? Stumped for an answer, the search for the deck, its price and a review that suites my newest obsession escalates.

I perspire over the next search. . If I haven't already mentioned it, may start to charge me for all the searches I do on this and so many other subjects.

If it's an Italian deck or an unusual one, I might double check at Mark Filipas' site to see if he reviewed and liked it. If he did, the deck develops a special cache for me. Does Tom Tadfor Little consider it authentic. Tom is the expert on antique tarot. Will Jim Revak have it among his recommendations? Did Mary Greer use the deck in Tarot for Your Self? Where else might I find the right price, picture or review?

Is it really information I want when buying a tarot deck?  What I want is beauty, uniqueness, luxury.  Sometimes I want the image of the dark H.R. Giger, the spirituality I find with the Songs for a Journey Home or just the very whimsy of Whimsical Tarot.  Sometimes what I want is expensive, out of print, or just up for discussion at Comparative Tarot, one of the best places to get thoroughly absorbed in collecting more and more tarot. You learn at Tarot L and expand your historical perspective at the now inactive Antique Tarot.

The folly or foible is that a deck you never heard of, never saw, never had on your wish list, can become an obsession.  As the emails from Comparative Tarot float back and forth across your screen where members share their own collections, the fever to buy becomes heightened and no medicine but a purchase appears to be the cure.  The next thing I know I am off looking again.  I may go to Almeisan Tarot to see a list of prices on some of the decks that are often considered hard to find.  After checking to see if rare is pink, a blush or medium,  I jump over to Rare Tarot.  So, it isn't that rare!  Many of my judgments, not all well conceived, are based on the images. When I want these images, I go to Aeclectic Tarot  (at this writing more than 250 decks are shown).

So, I've read several reviews, perhaps even more, but what about the cost? What about the way it is packaged? Will I need a bag to hold the deck in? Do I have room for a box? Am I about to purchase a fabulous old trunk, something I believe Janet Berres has done to hold her collection of some nearly one thousand decks.

How did this obsession begin?  Interestingly, it was not Comparative Tarot that started my tarot frenzy at eBay.  What actually started the auction madness was helping out a friend.  She wanted the Tarot for Cats.  She didn't know how to sign on to eBay.  I did!  While searching for this deck for her, I turned into an eBay fanatic, swooping in and out of the pages like a seagull.  As fate would have it, however, I found the deck for her when a member of Comparative Tarot directed me to the American Book Exchange.  They are one of several websites that provide access to smaller booksellers.  I arrived at a shop in Great Britain without leaving my laptop.  With shipping costs, the deck was affordable and the friend satisfied.  While I was searching on the Google search engine, one of hundreds of my favorite pastimes, I discovered Addall, and is a treasure and I have ongoing memos on my favorite subjects, including tarot decks and books. The latter is a site where you can enter a name or an ISBN and get comparative costs. Then I discovered that my little yellow and green Gater would pop up and help me cross check prices again through My Simon. Even after all these comparisons, I might go back to Addall just one more time to ensure that a better price doesn't exist or hasn't magically appeared.

After weeks of fanaticism and folly, I realized that you rarely get a bargain at eBay, and you often bid too high for a deck or deck set. By the time you add the cost of shipping and insurance, you have purchased the deck for what you might have paid for it locally. Some decks, such as Tarot for Cats, have become an auction feeding frenzy and one recent offering sold for USD50.00. According to the deck's creator, when I passionately pleaded for assistance in getting the deck, I was told not to pay much more than US15.00 for the book and 22 cards. This story ends with more pleasure than folly. After all is said, after I can't find another place for the tarot decks I've bought, after I have searched the web for bags, books, and even boxes, I can offer the following simple formula I am earnestly trying to follow.

If you want a deck, try eBay.  But before you bid, settle on the price you want to pay and don't equivocate as the price rises.  Most importantly, know the retail price and the deck's availability.  Don't hesitate to order directly from Italy or other European vendors.  Alida is easy to communicate with, reasonably priced and carries a large selection of Italian and other European tarots.  Other European websites are also accessible and occasionally a deck that is not easy to find in the States is available elsewhere.  Strangely enough, I purchased the Cary-Yale Visconti in England.  If you really want a standard US Games or Llewellyn deck, try A1 Books,  or one of the other online shops. In my limited, but several decks richer, experience, I found this merchant the fastest and most reliable.  If you buy more than one item, the shipping cost is reduced.  The overall cost for your purchases is not inflated.  If you are like me and don't mind that someone else owned a deck, you might check in with eBay's often, and see if they have one for sale. Not so strangely, the story of the Tarot for Cats, made a full circle. I bought the deck for myself, below retail price, there.

If you don't suffer from my sense of urgency, something I call my Syndrome Agora, you can create a wish list and will notify you when items came in at the price and condition you have selected. Then there is always Amazon and all the assorted places that link up to this mega-store. They also have used copies of books, and occasionally list a used deck. I have a very active wish list with them if anyone wants to buy me a deck for my birthday.

I'd like to also mention one of the discount stores. While they don't have many tarot decks, they are among the friendliest and quickest. Through Discount New Age Books, I purchased Brian Williams' Minchiate Tarot for a most reasonable price. also has a website for general use books and the occasional tarot deck.  Six months of folly, foibles and fun with tarot started with a cat and may never end.  After all, some decks are truly rare!

S. ZoŽ Hecht is a collector of tarot and the founder of 9Muses Foundation, a not for profit organization (pending) dedicated to enriching the lives of adolescents through cosmology, the arts, and community. The foundation's website is in development.

Article © 2001 S. Zoe Hecht
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes