An Embarrassment of Riches (or Not)

I’ve been exploring the Facebook “Tarot Marketplace” since I’ve been shilling for my two recent EBooks, and noticed just how many tarot decks have been published over the past few years and are now being sold off by their unimpressed buyers. The very existence of some of them is a mystery since I can’t imagine any market heavyweight like U.S. Games or Lo Scarabeo taking them on. I can only assume that the self-publishing boom is at the heart of this rampant outpouring of new decks, many of which seem to be decidedly mediocre in both artwork quality and traditional integrity (but to be fair, I doubt tradition was on the mind of their creators in many cases). It reinforces the observations I made in my earlier post about what I call “TINOs – “Tarots in Name Only.”

Beyond simply scuffling for a few dollars like everyone else in this business, the question becomes “What is motivating artists of indifferent ability to think they can produce work that is going to capture the imagination – and open the purse-strings – of the deck-buying public?” In the past I’ve referred to it as the “next-big-thing” syndrome, in which enthusiasts have money to burn and want to be at the forefront of any breaking wave in the tarot community. I’ve been an early adopter in a few cases myself, and for the most part I’ve wound up regretting it. It’s a truism that “There is nothing new under the Sun” in our particular metaphysical niche, and this is borne out with breathtaking myopia in the world of tarot deck creation. Most of the time it becomes just another case of “Why bother?”

If the goal is to own and use the most functional examples of the genre and not merely to collect curiosities, most of us don’t require more than a couple of decks that “speak” to us most eloquently. This need is usually satisfied by one of the three major styles: a Waite-Smith version or close clone; a Thoth or one of its imitators; or an historical deck like the Tarot de Marseille. Granted that it may take more than a few purchases to find the best fit, indiscriminate deck-buying can become a true addiction that serves no useful purpose. As a graphic artist myself, I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a deck but doubt I could do much more than “gild the lily” that has already been burnished to perfection by much better artists than I am, although that same lily has certainly been tarnished by much worse.

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