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We all love buying new tarot decks and during lockdown we could only buy them online. Which should have been great, but while online sales HAVE gone up there is a noticeable increase in one particular aspect of buying tarot decks online – the trade in counterfeit decks.

There's no getting away from it, some folks just do not care whether they are buying a fake deck or not. However, some buyers are genuinely duped into buying a counterfeit deck and have no clear idea what a counterfeit looks like or how to spot them being sold online; this blog post aims to help those folks make informed choices.

Buyers often have no clear idea what a counterfeit looks like or how to spot them being sold online Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Let me introduce myself to you first – I've been a professional tarotist for nearly 20 years and have been deeply involved with the Wildwood Tarot since it was launched, 10 years ago this very year. One of the Wildwood hats that I wear is handling all the queries that come in to the Wildwood Tarot's website. A couple of years ago, I would receive the odd email like this: Hi – just bought your deck and the link to the pdf isn't working. Can you send it to me please?

This kind of thing would come in once every few weeks and I would patiently write back that the genuine version of the Wildwood Tarot isn't sold without its companion book and explain to the writer how to get their money back.

More recently, even before lockdown, that occasional email requesting a pdf of the book has become an issue that I am dealing with on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day. Counterfeit tarot decks are clearly big business.

It's not just the Wildwood Tarot that is affected of course, every beautiful tarot that is produced these days quickly falls foul of the counterfeiters. So, with the basic economic model of publishing decks so clearly under threat, there has never been a better time for us all to understand the ins and outs of spotting a shonky deck.

I've put together a checklist which I truly hope that you will make use of when deciding where to put your money when buying a deck – into the pockets of thieves and criminals or into the pockets of the creatives whose work we love.

Let's take a look at a counterfeit product from one of the big platforms. Sadly, there are loads for me to choose from!

I have numbered up the image with each of the points that correspond with information on my check list:

1. CHECK THE LEGITIMATE COPY: Not shown on this image, but please visit the artist's website (if it's a privately printed deck) or the publisher's website (if it's a mass produced deck – eg the US Games or Llewellyn websites) to familiarise yourself with everything about the legitimate article.

2. Size – size IS important, when it comes to counterfeit Tarot decks. Fake decks are not the same size as the legit item; they are smaller – because they are printed from scans of the legit cards. Beware of 'travel-sized', 'pocket-sized', 'mini version' decks – if small versions are not on the artist's or publisher's website, you are looking at a counterfeit. You can tell from the box in this advert that it is not the same shape or size as the legitimate version.

3. Publisher details - Are not the actual publisher. Sometimes just odd collection of letters and numbers, they are throwing these storefronts up so frequently that they can't even be bothered to come up with realistic names! Very rarely is there a bricks and mortar address for the publisher. The legit publisher's details are often missing from the back of the box – if they are not there, you're looking at a counterfeit.

4. Companion book – cheapness of production is everything with the counterfeiters and so if the legit version of the deck you want to buy comes with a box-sized companion book, you will not find that book in the counterfeit version. Instead, they will offer a link to a pdf. If there ought to be a book and there is not, you are looking at a counterfeit.

5. Price – if you can only find legitimate copies of the deck at a fairly 'high' price and then stumble upon NEW copies that are a fraction of that price, you are looking at a counterfeit. However, this is not always the case. I have seen fake Wildwood Tarots being sold for £60.

6. Multiples – if you are on a big platform like Amazon or Ebay etc and you can purchase multiples of the deck you want, this is often a sign of a counterfeit deck. You may also note that there are lots of other fabulous decks that are available from the same seller – you can bet your bottom denari that these are ALL fakes.

7. Deck name – often not quite right – this designed to fox those of us who are looking to shut down the counterfeiters' sales points. The Wildwood is often renamed 'Nature Tarot' or similar.

8. Point of Dispatch – At the moment, the majority of the world's counterfeits are coming from China, but this will change as it has done in the past.

And what can you do if you have inadvertently purchased a counterfeit deck?

  1. Report the seller to the selling platform (eg Ebay, Etsy, Wish etc) – the platforms are supposed to be helping us get rid of counterfeit goods. Sure, this is only a deck of cards, but counterfeiting arises in medicines and building materials too. Let's stamp it out where we find it!

  2. Ask for your money back.

  3. Refuse to send back the counterfeit deck. Destroy it. It is not a genuine product and it should not be returned for reselling, nor sold forward to another buyer.

  4. Report the seller to whichever money-collecting platform they used – paypal, stripe etc

So, there you have it, everything you need to know about counterfeit decks. Although this is compiled from my own experience of working with The Wildwood Tarot, all these points apply equally to all other fake decks out there.

If you love it, buy the real thing and let's all support the fantastic creatives who make it all happen in the first place. If we don't, we'll soon have no industry to support.

Happy shopping!


Further information:

Learn more about counterfeiting via the International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) HERE

Watch my video on identifying fake decks on youtube HERE

EDITORS NOTE: If you would like to learn more about Alison, then visit her blog HERE where she unravels the mysteries of the Court Cards (amongst other things).

1 Comment

Wow this is very insightful i never had any idea that there were fake decks being sold. I thought the article would go towards like I've seen on etsy tarot cards that you can download and print, without a book. Hmm

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