Tarot as a Collectible


(An article written for the Collectible column of Post Newspapers)
Cards of all types, from baseball to regular playing cards are a great collectible and Tarot cards are no exception. They are avidly collected by Tarot and art enthusiasts around the world. There are hundreds of deck to choose from in many different styles and price ranges.
Tarot decks generally have 78 cards, 22 Major or Trump cards depicting archetypical figures, such as a Magician or a Hermit and 56 Minor arcana cards, with 4 suits. Each suit will have cards ace or one to ten and 4 court/people cards, traditionally, Page, Knight, Queen and King.
Where exactly Tarot cards came from is unknown, but legends of Gypsy, Chinese, Indian, Egyptian or even Atlantian origins have added to their mystique over the centuries. From a historical point of view, the first know 78 card deck of Tarot cards appeared in Italy in the late 1400’s. Painted by Bonificio Bembo, as a family wedding gift, 74 of the original cards from the Visconti-Sforza deck are still in existence, some at the Pierpont Morgan library in New Your, some at the Accademia Carrara and some with the Calleoni Family in Bergamo, Italy.
Reproductions of this deck are available to collectors for $55.95, (Visconti-Sforza Pierfont Morgan Larocihi Deck, 3-5/8″ x 7″) the missing 4 cards having been recreated in the style of the original artist It is likely that these cards were used for gaming only.
Other decks started to appear in Europe over the next two centuries. By the late 1700’s, the gaming decks started to be associated with divination and hidden wisdom and spiritual messages.
By the later half of the 1800’s Tarot cards were being associated with astrology, the Qabbalah (Tree of Life), numerology and other mystic practices by mystery schools of the time, one of the most notable being the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. From this school came two very popular decks, the Rider- Waite (designed by Arthur Waite, artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith) and the Thoth deck (designed by Alister Crowley, artwork by Lady Frieda Harris). Both were a major departure from past European style decks (today well represented by the Marseilles Deck available in French or English titles for $24.50) and are very widely used and collected today.
One of the world’s most popular Tarot decks, the Rider Waite deck is used to illustrate many 20th century Tarot books and is often the first deck of beginning Tarot students or enthusiasts. At the time is was created it was unique in that it depicted full scenes with figures and symbols on all 78 cards and not just on the Major Arcana and the Court Cards. One could have a collection of just this deck in it’s many sizes and forms. A facsimile edition of the Rider Waite deck originally printed from plates that were destroyed during the bombing of London during World War II is available as a deck/book set for $21.50. and comes complete with a full-colour 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot deck (Cards measure 2-3/4″ x 4-3/4″) by Pamela Coleman Smith with original Tudor Rose back design, Celtic Cross card spread chart, and The Key to the Tarot book by Arthur Edward Waite. A more common version of this deck without the Tudor Rose back can be purchased and is available with English or French titles, or a five language version is available featuring titles in English, French, German, Italian and Dutch on each card. A deluxe edition of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck features over sized cards ( 3″ x 5-3/4″) with full gilt edges and packaged in a special sleeve box is available for $61.95. The deck also comes in various sizes, Miniature (1-3/4″ x 2-7/8″) for $13.95, Pocket Size Edition (2-1/4″ x 3 -½”) for $16.95 and the Giant Rider Waite (4″ x 6 ½”) for $33.95. Also available is the Golden Rider, a re-colouring of Pamela Coleman Smiths designs in bold flat colours by Francios Tapernous for $28.95 and the Universal Waite with re-colouring by Mary Hanson Roberts in soft pencil crayon colours Both are standard size (2-3/4″ x 4-3/4″) for $20.95. The Universal Waite also comes in the tiniest size (1-3/16″ x 1-3/8″) for $9.95 as well as a card/book set for $34.25.
The Thoth deck also comes in various versions and sizes. Although it has wonderful and unique artwork on all the Minor cards as well as the Majors and Courts, the images are more abstracted and don’t have scenes with people in them as do the Rider Waite Minor Arcana. The regular size Thoth ( 2-3/4′ x 4-3/4″) is $23.50, the larger size (3-3/4″ x 5 -½”) is $30.95. What is called the Swiss version is available in both sizes and has 80 cards because there are 3 different versions of Major Arcana 1, The Magus.
In the last 30 years there has been an explosion of new Tarot decks. There are many Rider Waite clones, decks that use the same basic symbolism and structure, but redrawn in different styles, The Morgan Greer, Aquarian and Robin Wood decks are good example of this.
Theme decks have also become popular and one can find Tarot decks featuring Alice in Wonderland characters, baseball, gem stones, herbs, cats and Halloween images to the new Animal Speak Tarot Set by Ted Andrews ($59.95) in which all cards are photographs of animals. Many artists also self publish or produce limited edition decks such as the photographic Healing Tarot by Elizabeth Moore($115.00) which shows real people wearing elaborate masks, body paint and costumes. Artistic styles can range from traditional to modern, from realistic to abstract and in a variety of mediums from oils, water colours and collage to electronic art as in the Cosmic Tribe by Stevee Postman and photo montage as in the popular Voyage Tarot ( 3-3/4″ x 5 ½”) for $54.25. Even the popular artist Salvador Dali produced a collage and painted deck with gilt edges that is usually sold for around $100.00 US.
Tarot decks are available at most major book store chains in the new age section and from small local new age stores and on the Internet.
NOTE: The prices quoted here are from online stores from the year the article was printed.

© copy right 2011 by Bella Lori Gagnon
all rights reserved

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