Tarot deck collecting
The hobby of tarot deck collecting consists of acquiring tarot decks based on a particular interest of the collector. These collections are sometimes highly organized, carefully catalogued, and attractively displayed.
Types of collections
Since collecting depends on the interests and budget of the individual collector, the depth and breadth of the collection may vary. Some collectors choose to focus on specific types, genres or themes of decks. Others prefer to keep a more general collection.
Some collections are capable of being completed, at least to the extent of owning one sample of each possible item in the collection (e.g., one copy of each different in-print deck by a specific tarot artist). Collectors who specifically try to assemble complete collections in this way are sometimes called "completists". Upon completing a particular collection, they may stop collecting, expand the collection to include related kinds of tarot decks, or begin an entirely new focus for their tarot deck collection. If and when new tarot decks are published along the lines of the particular collection, the collector might add such decks to his or her collection.
Oftentimes a collector accumulates a significant number of decks in the course of accumulating partial collections by various themes or types of decks, as and when their collection interests or tarot interests change or their experience increases.
There are some limitations on tarot deck collecting, however. Someone who has the financial means to collect modestly-priced in-print decks might not be able to collect out-of-print or original antique decks, for example.
Reasons for collecting
Different people collect tarot decks for different reasons, often for a combination of reasons. Those reasons often include one or more of the following;
- The collector is searching for The One, i.e., a tarot deck that he or she perceives to be a good or an ideal deck for performing tarot card readings. The collector might not find that good or ideal deck and will pursue this search throughout his or her active period in tarot (thereby accumulating more decks, either quickly or gradually). At some point, the collector might cease such a search.
- The collector buys decks as "study decks" in order to pursue his or her study of tarot card symbology, tarot card reading, or tarot history. Sometimes, these interests are pursued on a comparative basis, making the possession of several or numerous decks an asset or necessity.
- The collector enjoys one or more particular themes or kinds of tarot decks and therefore collects decks of that theme or kind.
- Sometimes, a deck might be acquired because the collector wishes to treat or reward himself, or because of compulsive buying behaviour, or because the deck was being sold at a reduced price or was going out of print or in danger of going out of print.
- Sometimes, a collector will buy a deck because of the "thrill of the chase", e.g., buying a deck that is rare or rarely available or available only at a much higher price.
- The collector appreciates the art in different decks, and collects them for the art. Each deck contains (usually) 78 small pictures that can be very beautiful, meaningful and evocative.
Some tarotists are of the view that a tarot deck should only be acquired if the purchaser is planning to use the deck for tarot card reading or as a study deck. Others may argue that tarot decks are like other objects that can be collected but not necessarily actively used, e.g., postage stamps, coins, playing cards, antique dolls, Coca-Cola or Elvis Presley memorabilia, etc.
At what point does one become a tarot deck collector?
In the case of stamp or coin collecting, a person accumulating stamps or coins that they cannot use for reasonable currency or postage purposes can become a "collector" very early on in their accumulation of the stamps or coins. However, in the case of a person accumulating tarot decks, those decks might have been acquired with the intent or hope (though in some cases unrealistic) of using the deck for card-reading or study. Does one become a tarot deck collector once they have accumulated a certain number of decks, regardless of their motivation for the deck acquisitions? Does one become a tarot deck collector once they acquire a deck that, even at the time of the purchase, they reasonably knew they would never use the deck for card-reading or study? These questions have sometimes been debated on tarot forums on the Internet.
Types of collections
Items and subjects that are popular in tarot deck collecting include:
Decks for collectors
Deck creators and publishing houses sometimes cater to collectors by offering
- decks that are autographed by the artists/creators
- "limited edition" decks, that might or might not be numbered limited editions
- premium editions, e.g., premium cardstock, gilt-edging, etc.
- trump-only decks
- art-theme or novelty decks
While not as prevalent as in the case for stamp or coin collecting, tarot deck collectors do, to a certain extent, have specialized commercial dealers that trade in tarot decks and books. Many of these dealers started as collectors themselves, then turned their hobby into a profession.
Collecting as an investment
Sometimes tarot decks can appreciate in value. This can generally occur only when the deck or a valued edition of that deck goes out of print and there is a demand for that deck or edition. Some decks that are only a few years out of print can command prices as much as 10 to 20 times their original retail price. Other out-of-print decks may be less in demand and can be purchased at prices not much more than the original retail price. Sometimes, decks that are long out-of-print might not command prices much more than twice the current equivalent of the original pre-inflation retail price. Some out-of-print decks might not stand the test of time and might thus be worth less than their original retail price. An out-of-print deck might have a significant value at some stage when the demand for it is great, with the value dropping as and when demand wanes.
It is difficult to predict which decks will go out of print, which decks (if they do go out of print) will experience significant demand, and which decks (if they go out of print) might be reprinted. A reprinting can sometimes seriously reduce the price for the earlier editions of the deck. On the other hand, sometimes the earlier edition can still keep its cachet and command prices that are several times the retail price of the reprinted deck. Thus, some are of the view that the tactic of buying every in-print deck in case it goes out of print may not be a profitable investment strategy if one is seeking to collect as an investment.
Antique tarot decks
Antique tarot decks, e.g., Visconti tarot decks from the Italian Renaissance or 17th century French and Italian decks can be out of price range for all purchasers but museums and wealthy collectors. However, the average collector can still "collect" these types of decks by purchasing a photoreproduction deck that generally costs about the same amount of money as an average modern-day in-print tarot deck.
Alternatives to tarot deck collecting
Alternatives to collecting tarot decks include studying tarot card images on Internet tarot sites or in the Encyclopedia of Tarot.