I'm a professional tarot reader with 23 years of experience. For me, tarot is a fascinating system that reflects all human life.
Before You Buy a Tarot Deck . . .
The key to buying the perfect deck . . . oh, let's be honest, it is rare to come across the perfect tarot deck. You may find the best one for you at the time. You could be very lucky, fall in love, and use that deck forevermore. That's rare. The problem is that there are so many gorgeous decks out there, and more are coming on the market every year. How can you resist just one more deck?
At the last count, I had around 50 decks of tarot cards. Do I read with them all? No. I read with four or five favorite decks. Others I keep because they are beautiful, some because they are quirky, a few are valuable, and there are several I don't really like much at all. They were mistakes, ones I bought on a whim without seeing them properly first. I'm hoping that I'll help you avoid those costly mistakes when buying your first tarot cards, or your second, or even your twentieth.
Where should you buy your tarot cards? Well, I'm going to give you a few ideas.
Where to Buy Tarot Cards: 3 Best Places
1. Your Local Metaphysical Store
If you are lucky enough to have a witchy shop in your neighborhood, then make friends with the proprietor. He or she will be happy to offer advice on tarot decks but, unless they understand and read tarot themselves, then you may not be getting good advice. It's wonderful if they have a sample of open decks for you to riffle through. The store will also be able to order decks on your behalf.
When browsing a selection of tarot decks, it is fun to see if one 'calls' you. Pass your hand about 10 inches above the decks and notice if your hand gets warm over a particular deck. Take heed, though, that has happened to me before when visiting Glastonbury—I bought the deck, love it but it doesn't read well for me.
2. Tarot Cards on Amazon
I have bought so many decks from Amazon, I've lost count. For sheer cost-effectiveness it can't be beaten. I love to read customer reviews as they come from such a wide range of experience—from beginners to professionals. It's a shame they don't have more images of individual cards—that's where your long hours of research pay off. Go find the cards and return to Amazon to buy them.
3. Tarot Decks on eBay
My most valuable decks have been ones I have grabbed off eBay. I have a pristine copy of the original (not revised) William Blake tarot that I fought for and eventually paid £25 (about $32) for. I think it is worth quite a lot these days.
You need to know what you are going for and don't be tempted to pay over the odds for new decks that are much cheaper on Amazon.
Talking of eBay, the question of second-hand tarot decks arises. Personally, if a deck is clean and in good condition, I have no problems with buying a used deck. In fact, I think it is quite nice to have a deck that is 'experienced' as it were. I always give them a good cleansing by waving the cards through incense smoke or wiping them with a baby wipe. I have heard of people quickly rinsing cards under running water. Make sure you only do that with glossy cards or you'll end up with a soggy mess!
How to Choose a Tarot Deck
Many experienced readers will advise you to start with the Rider-Waite deck. I can't really argue with this. It is the basic, modern deck. It is the standard on which thousands of other deck creators base their cards upon. It is a good deck and you should buy yourself a copy at some point. However, it is not likely to make your heart sing. Pamela (Pixie) Smith's art does the job of portraying the telling and necessary detail, but the four-color printing is, to be frank, dull. You may decide to put up with the Rider-Waite's shortcomings, or you could decide to go another route—a Rider-Waite clone. A 'clone' sounds horrible but all it means is a deck that uses the symbols of the original but is given a new look or a new interpretation by its creator.
Alternatively, you might opt for a re-colored version of the Rider-Waite. There are some excellent examples around and I will provide the links for you to see some in due course.
The third option is to go for a unique deck—where the creator has developed their own symbolism, produced their own art and given the cards their own meanings. There is nothing wrong with this, but you might find yourself unable to participate in any discourse based on 'traditional' interpretations. For example, if you were to take part in an online tarot class, then you would need a deck that pretty much follows the Rider-Waite symbolism.
So my suggestion is that you go for one of the first three options—the original Rider-Waite, a RW clone, or a recolored Rider-Waite. Personally I would avoid the old, but still popular Marseilles deck and also the famous Thoth. The Marseilles only has illustrated Major Arcana—its numbered Minor Arcana are, what we call, 'pips'. They show the main symbol of the suit multiplied by the number of the card. Therefore the Four of Cups displays four chalices but nothing else to jog your thoughts.
Read More From Exemplore
There are many who say there is only one deck, and that is Aleister Crowley's Thoth tarot. The Thoth is its own system, and is held in wide esteem by tarot scholars. However, it is relatively more difficult to learn and also has keywords on— which I don't recommend. Turn to the Thoth later if you feel drawn to it.
Note: All the images on this page are decks I own myself and ones that I would recommend for beginners.
Look at Tarot Images
There is nothing worse than opening your eagerly anticipated tarot deck to be disappointed in the artwork, the printing or the quality of the cardstock. It is vitally important that you spend some time in research. Some decks have a few stunning images but the rest of the cards are less than breathtaking. Go find a deck that appeals and then search, search, search for images. Try several search engines as you'll get different results.
The websites below have detailed reviews and lots of images. My old favorite Wicce's Tarot is offline indefinitely but you never know, it might resurface.
Join some tarot forums and you'll find many people willing to recommend decks and even share images.
Tarot Images and Review Website
Reviews, ratings and card images of 1200+ Tarot & Oracle cards.
The publisher, Llewellyn, has greatly expanded its tarot business over the last ten years. They ship worldwide and have an extensive array of stock. Their website has many tarot resources and decks are categorized as 'Pagan', 'Classical', 'Contemporary' and so on. Llewellyn offers a 'Deck of the Month' with 20% off the list price. Llewellyn also carries the Italian Lo Scarabeo range of decks.
There are interviews with deck creators, tarot authors and artists. There is a news section, a blog, and, of course, a huge selection of tarot and metaphysical books. For your average tarot reader, it's like a great big candy store!
Why I Don't Recommend a Deck With Keywords
At first it seems like a good idea. Having a single keyword on the minor arcana cards to remind the reader what it is about is common sense, right? Well, no, not really. One word cannot encompass the whole range of meanings in a card. For example: the Two of Air (Swords) on the admittedly gorgeous Osho Zen Tarot, is labelled "Schizophrenia." Now I don't know about you but the general meaning of this card can mean "in two minds," but it also means fear, closed off, uncommunicative, blind to the obvious... that sort of thing. We can all feel those things but that doesn't mean that we are suffering from schizophrenia.
Also if you are reading for other people and an negatively labelled card shows up, you immediately have to reassure the person that the word doesn't necessarily apply to them. It can put the whole reading out of kilter.
Thirdly, keywords can prevent you from accessing your intuition. There's this arbitrary word staring you in the face and overlaying your knowledge and intuition and sending your mind skittering up a blind alley. Obviously all the Major Arcana have names, but that is completely different to the minors. The Majors refer to accepted archetypes.
I have heard of readers actually trimming off the borders of their cards to remove the labels . . . but I don't think I could do that. So that's why I avoid decks with keywords wherever possible.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can I buy myself my own Tarot deck?
Answer: Of course, you can buy your own deck. That myth that you shouldn't buy your own first deck of tarot is just that - a silly myth. Remember that there is absolutely nothing special about the deck itself. The cards are just laminated images stuck onto cardboard. Usually printed in China. By themselves, they are nothing except pretty cards. The magic happens when you allow your knowledge, your memories, and your intuition to connect with the images. When you make connections between pictures, numbers, and situations.
Question: Are there any stores I could buy tarot cards?
Answer: I don't know where you live so I am unable to advise you. Try local bookshops, or metaphysical shops (they sell crystals, incense, books, etc). Otherwise, online: Amazon, Llewellyn, or Lo Scarabeo is your best bet.
Question: I don’t have a lot of money. Where are good places to get tarot cards cheap?
Answer: Amazon is the best bet. Look for second-hand decks -- they can be cleansed to remove lingering traces of their original owner. Also, just keep your eyes open when you are out and about. I found a few new decks in a cheap bookstore a couple of years ago.
Question: Where can I get a deck of Spanish Marseille tarot cards in a big size?
Answer: I've looked around but this is all I could find: https://amzn.to/2FVNCdj
I can't find any indication that the Tarot de Marseille is printed in a larger size in any language.
© 2012 Bev G
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on March 04, 2018:
Hi Eileen, I have some articles on another site with tarot spreads for relationships and love:
Hope they are helpful.
Eileen on March 03, 2018:
Could you recommend some spreads for relationships& love using Tarot cards
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 30, 2013:
It's wonderful when you connect with a deck, ShyeAnne. Happy tarot-ing.
Thanks for the visit and vote-up xx.
ShyeAnne from Qualicum Bay, British Columbia, Canada on November 29, 2013:
I acquired the Motherpeace Tarot deck. They felt right in my hands. I have them wrapped in my grandfather's world war two silk flying scarf..I love all tarot cards. Very informative hub. Voted up
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on April 15, 2013:
If it feels uncomfortable, then let it go. You could approach it from a different angle that might give you more enthusiasm. There's nothing worse than working on a project that doesn't make your heart sing! I heartily recommend Revelations. The book that goes with it is very on the mark, too.
I've re-homed decks that I didn't really like. I've also stuck one, card-by-card, page-by-page into a journal and used it for studying. Others I keep because I like the look of them even if they don't read well.
Thanks for stopping by, m'dear xx
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on April 14, 2013:
I have a few "mistake" decks too. I wrote my book, Pathways through Spirituality, a poem for each card, when I was going through a hard time where both my best friend from childhood and Mother in law were passing on. It helped me to pour out my emotions, and I dislike reading with keywords too. I self published though, and feel they overcharged, both me and potential buyers. A friend also believes the title may have been a poor one, that people think it's a religion book. I'm thinking of re releasing it on Amazon as an ebook, yet somehow feel I don't want to revisit it all again, like that part of my life is over. I have been looking up more on the Revelations deck though, I like it. I want something more modern. I bought the Sacred Rose deck to support a friend who owns her metaphysical shop, but is involved in pet adoption, so it was only a $5.00 donation for the deck. But there were holes in each card, like made with a paper punch, and it made me feel like it wasn't right to read with it, it gave me bad vibes. Plus it isn't that nice besides the stained glass stuff.
Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on October 05, 2012:
Many thanks, heavenleigh707. I have been guilty of buying many decks that I *thought* were perfect, but then discovering that I couldn't connect to them/with them at all. Hope you find a good one!
Heaven L Burkes from The Invincible Heart of Neverland on October 05, 2012:
Well, I wish I had read this before I ordered mine a few years back. They did not speak to me in the way I'd hoped.
It is all about the art, that is why I love Doreen Virtue Angel cards, yet I wanted to branch out into Tarot. It is much more "complicated" than just choosing an angel card to focus on during your day.
I appreciate this Hub, and will go shopping using your tips, when I am in the mood to delve into Tarot once again! Very useful and interesting! Voted UP. Thanks!