Choosing your first deck can be a fun, yet, stress-inducing process. With so many decks on the market, how do you find “the one deck” you’ll want to bond with, read with, and generally enjoy for a long time? Back when I got my first deck, there weren’t many offerings, and I certainly wasn’t able to go through all the cards and see if I agreed with them. When I got home with the deck, I wasn’t entirely satisfied, nor did the little booklet explain to my teenage brain clearly what I’d need to know to get started down this path. Which is why I recommend you take time to find that first deck. This post may seem long but it’s filled with good ways to find a deck you’ll truly love.
There’s a lot of myths surrounding the deck buying process (of course! If you’ve read TIL you’ll totally know this!) Some readers say that your first deck should be given to you, by a mentor or a friend. Others say you have to purchase your own deck from a store because you don’t want to pick up unwanted energies from pre-owned decks. I say, get a deck you identify with and has images you love and a card stock that’ll make the deck easy for you to shuffle. In the end, your first tarot deck will become your best friend, so treat the selection process with care.
Step 1: Research and think about what you want.
What art styles do you like? Do you gravitate towards darker decks or do you think you want a “beginner’s deck”? For some, this is a hard decision to make and warrants a lot of time and attention. For others, they may not care about what deck they use to begin with, preferring to just get one of the standard decks to learn and explore with.
If you have no idea about what way you lean towards, it’s time to visit Aeclectic.net, one of the best deck reference sites out there. It contains thousands of decks! The site is searchable and each deck page contains up to 6 images for you to see. There may also be reviews of the deck and links to where you can find it. Decks on Aeclectic can be in print, out of print, or deemed self-published and may or may not be for sale. Take time to wander through the site and use the extensive search categories to find what you may be looking for. (Beware, collecting tarot cards can become an addition.)
Once you have a solid idea of what deck you’d like to use, the next step is to really find a local retailer who has a copy of the deck.
Step 2: Explore the deck in full.
Why is this important? While you have seen images online from where ever you have done your research, you may change your mind when you see all the images on all the cards. Seeing the cards up front and in person can also give you a change to experience the joy of shuffling the cards and feeling the finish on the card stock. Not every publisher uses the same sealant on the cards and decks with a slippery finish may be harder to shuffle.
There are two ways to explore the deck. The first is to see if a local store can get a copy of your deck in so you can explore it before buying it. Not all stores will do this. Some will have display decks for you to handle, others will not.
This step is a great opportunity to connect to your local tarot community. Perhaps they have a copy of the potential deck in their collection? I own over 100 decks and have had many friends stop by to review decks for their potential purchase. If you can’t find the deck around town, check for a video online. Some readers take time to do unboxing videos online. This is a great resource to preview decks before you buy.
Now you’ve had a chance to fully explore your deck, it’s time to make the purchase.
Step 3: Buy your deck.
There are many ways to do this, either by purchasing the deck locally or via an online retailer. Not all local bookstores or pagan supply stores carry your deck. So you may have to ask them to order a copy for you.
If you want to support the tarot community, you can do your shopping at The Tarot Garden. They are a US-based tarot retailer that has quite the selection of decks on hand. You can also rare and out of print decks. Another good shop to get decks from is The Hermit’s Lamp, located in Canada.
Step 4: Squee and rejoice upon the deck’s arrival!
Yay, it’s arrived. Unbox it and start playing with it. Look over each image on each card, in a big picture sense, as well as a detailed sense. Shuffle your cards so that you break them in. While everyone loves the feel of a new deck, if you plan on using the cards to read for others, you will need to break the cards in. Dan Peltier, of the Tarot Garden, recommends that you slide each card back and forth over the curve of your leg. This softens the newness of the deck and preps the each card for a good shuffling. It also makes sure that none of the cards got stuck together while they were being packaged.
If you’ve been a long-time reader, what was your first deck? Did you enjoy using it? Mine was The Tarot of the Witches and I didn’t really grasp the cards until I got my second deck, The Haindl Tarot. I spent many years using that deck.