Tarot musing

How to spot fake tarot decks

Counterfeit decks have been around for a very long time but recently, it feels like a tsunami of fake tarot decks have found their way onto many online platforms.

Some of us may not be aware that a coveted deck won on Ebay is a fake or, the deck they just purchased is also fake (it happened to one of my students, when she showed me her new Rider Waite Smith. I had to tell her that what she had purchased was indeed a fake).

If you are a tarot aficionado, of course buying decks is in your job description (guilty as charged here). And as tarot lovers, we are spoilt with many online retailers but, not all are bona fide resellers and many are there just to make money, blatantly copying decks and robbing artists of their hard-earned royalties.


But how do I know that a deck is legitimate?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of pointers to help you make some decisions when making your tarot deck purchase.

1) Indie decks.
Usually the best is to buy from the artist’s web site directly.
If you found their decks somewhere else, try to contact the artist via social media or web site, and see with them if their decks are sold by a 3rd party.

Some decks such as the Light Seer’s Tarot (see images below) started as an Indie deck and later published by Hay House.

Light Seer's tarot

You can see from the artist’s web site, that the Indie version of the deck is OOP (Out of Print). However, a mass market version is available via Hay House publishing.

Light seer's Hay House with redGenuine deck with the name on the publishers (Hay House) on the box


2) Market place

Many fake decks come from China and Russia.

* Aliexpress, Alibaba and Wish (seem to be the worst offenders).
If you buy from these platforms, know that you are more than likely buying a fake deck, it is that simple!
These platforms do not sell genuine tarot decks, period.

AliexpressThis is a snapshot of the first page on their site.

Here is a small list of the counterfeit decks (there are many more) I have spotted on the platform:

. Rider Waite Smith (many versions)
. The Light Seer’s Tarot
. Tarot of the Pagan cats
. The Modern Witch Tarot
. The Nightmare before Christmas Tarot
. Tarot of oppositions
. Tarot del Fuego
. The Dark wood Tarot
. Santa Muerte Tarot
. The Green Witch Tarot
. The Deviant Moon Tarot
. The Mystical moments Tarot
. Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot
. The Tarot of Dreams
. The Vice Versa Tarot
. Morgan Greer Tarot


AliBabaJust a small example of the decks you can find on Alibaba.

Again, here is a small list of the decks I have seen on their web site (in addition to the ones found on Aliexpress)

. The Illuminati Tarot
. Tarot Mucha
. The Antique Anatomy Tarot
. The Gilded Tarot
. Tarot de la Nuit
. Star Spinner Tarot
. Mermaid Tarot
. Raphaelite tarot
. The Golden Wheel Tarot
. Tarot of the Little Prince
. Tarot of the White Cats
. Forest of Enchantment Tarot
. Cat Tarot
. The Chrysalis Tarot
. The Spellcasters Tarot
. The Universal Celtic Tarot
. Osho Zen Tarot
. The Wheel of the Year Tarot


WishResellers on Wish are very busy scamming people…this reseller has 316  “styles” of decks at £1.00 each 😦


Please note that many bona fide publishers choose to have decks printed in China, but none of the decks are sold on these platforms.


* Ebay
You can find a gem on this platform but there are many scammers ready to take your money.
I chose the Dark Mansion tarot (Indie Deck) to show you how to spot a fake deck on Ebay.

Please note that Taroteca Studio, the genuine creator of the deck has an excellent blog on the subject of counterfeit decks

Fake Dark Mansion Tarot2Hot Full English…for a second, I thought they were selling breakfast in a cafe!
Tarot deck board game is another red flag on a listing showing that the deck is fake!

Back to our Ebay seller, you can spot many red flags apart from the description and price above.

The outlandish descriptions, dimensions of the cards and packaging/box are usually a dead give-away.

Fake Dark Mansion Tarot description2

Fake Dark Mansion Tarot

genuine dark mansion tarotThe correct dimensions of the cards are 12 cms x 7.5 cms
Notice the print quality as well as colours compared to the one above!


* Etsy
Once upon a time you could find little gems, with artists selling their decks on this platform.

Now, it is a bit of a minefield to try to guess if a tarot deck listed is genuine or fake.

In the example below, the Light Seer’s tarot is listed at a cheap price (first red flag) but, at the back of the deck you have a scan QR code to download a pdf  (we know that this indie deck is out of print, and a mass market edition has been published by Hay House). Publishers as far as I know, do no use scan QR codes.

As we discussed, the description also rings another alarm bell: materials: laser paper!

Etsy fake

Light seer's backThis how the box and the cards should look.


* Amazon
Like them or loath them, Amazon has a large range of tarot decks on their site and because of their delivery system, sometimes you can get a deck pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake decks on Amazon, sold by 3rd party sellers.

However, the ones sold by Amazon and dispatched by Amazon are usually the genuine article.

To make sure, look at the description of the deck and more importantly, the ISBN number that Amazon provides together with the name of the publisher, publication date, dimensions of the cards and language.

Bonafide Antique Anatomy Tarot


Should I stop buying tarot decks online?

Of course not,  you can still buy your tarot decks online but make sure to verify by asking a reseller for the ISBN (International Stand Book Number). Fake decks do not have one, but instead have a scan QR code.

If a seller indicates that there is no ISBN 13 (a 13 number long identification on items published after 2007) or IBSN 10 (a 10 number identification for work published before 2007), then ask yourself if you want to proceed.

Online platforms such as Wordery, Blackwells, Book Depository or WOB (World of Books) are a good starting point, as you can get the info needed to buy a deck.

How to spot bonafide tarot

You can also go to your local esoteric book shop and browse their tarot section if they have one.
In London, Watkins, Treadwells, Mysteries, The Astrology shop and Atlantis Book shop to name but a few are good places to buy genuine tarot decks.


3) Know your publishers.
The world of tarot has a number of publishers selling tarot decks from their signed artists.

There are small independent publishers too, and it is sometimes worth it trying to find out who is the publisher of any deck you are interested in and perhaps about to purchase.

As we have seen, decks can be created and self-published from independent artists usually using a crowd funding platform of some sort. That is ok as the artist will send you your deck directly via their web site/crowd funding page.

Then you have the well-established publishers such as:

* US Games
* Lo Scarabeo
* Llewellyn
* Hay House
* AGM Urania
* Blue Angel Publishing
* Red Feather/Schiffer
* Rock Pool Publishing

If a deck (unless an Indie deck) has no publishers stated on the packaging, alarm bell should ring!


4) To summarise
As we have seen there are a few things to check before you buy a new deck

1) Check the online platform.

2) Cheap prices, usually under £10 are a good indication, but not always.

3) Research the publishers of a particular deck. If it is an Indie deck, go to the web site of the artist or their crowd funding page.

5) Check the ISBN of a deck. If none, contact the reseller to ask for the ISBN, easy to find on the back of genuine decks!


6) Look at the size of the cards.

Genuine and fake card

7) Be aware of description online (board game, cards game, English board game, family game, fate board etc).

8) Sometimes, on the cards themselves additional words are written (see example).

Genuine and fake card inscription

9) Quality of printing and colours: the fake ones are less vivid and washed out

Genuine and fake card printing

10) Packaging, as usually the fake ones are like a “cigarette/tuck” box as opposed as a rigid box, a flip box or a magnetic book box.

cigarette box2

11) Card stock, usually the fake ones are thin. Although you won’t know until you have purchased a deck.


Why should I care about buying a fake deck?

Who does not like a bargain?

Of course, it is very tempting to buy a cheap tarot deck, particularly with the cost of living and rampant inflation.

Also, if one is building their tarot collection, it is a costly affair (says she with 170 decks, all genuine apart from the Antique Anatomy Tarot that I purchased to illustrate this article).

However, it is not only about our purse and our desire to get a deck.

These decks are counterfeit which means their creators, who worked for months and even years to create a deck are robbed of their hard-earned royalties.

Is it fair to them?

Tarot aficionados, lovers, readers and teachers have a spiritual and moral responsibility towards the tarot artists who create magic for us to enjoy for years.

We can report the sellers of fake decks online when we find one (but it is a time consuming affair as it is not easy on some platforms).

To help the creators of decks, we can simply question our motives when we are buying a deck, that we know is not genuine (now that we have learned how to spot a fake deck).

And last but not least, if one is sensitive to energies, these decks are not great to work with, the energies are off (after all the artist has been robbed of their work) and it begs the question about one’s own spiritual fortitude.

Should it be better to save up to buy a treasured deck, knowing that the artist will receive their royalties via the publisher of the deck?

Or should one go ahead regardless and buy a fake deck, knowing that it is intellectual theft?

I will let you ponder over this 🙂


Oephebia and the kitty monsters in spirit

End of presentation

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2 thoughts on “How to spot fake tarot decks

  1. This is a brilliantly written article about something we should all be more aware of, I got stung once on Etsy and was absolutely gutted. Thank you for making such a clear list of things to look out for, I’ll definitely reference it in future!


    1. Thank you Nimogen for your comment. I am sorry you have been stung on Etsy, but to be fair it is a minefield and it is hard to know if a deck is genuine or not.
      I am glad the list can be helpful and all of us can help reverse the trend (hopefully) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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