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Holy Grail Decks?


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At the Tarot Garden I have a  "holy grail" wishllist for a select few decks (from my overall wishlist) that I consider to be super rare, unlikely-to-ever-get decks that I nonetheless would really really love to have.

 

Turns out, with some patience and careful Ebay stalking i've been able to get quite a few of the decks I had on my 'holy grail' list in recent months! They are the Louttre B, the Silhouettes Tarot (that one I barely won a down-to-the-second auction for haha), the Jugendstil, the Swietlstij Drogi, and the Minotarot. Plus, the Bagong Sining is hopefully being republished next year, so that's another one.

 

So now I am thinking that maybe I should add a few more decks to my 'holy grail' list. And I'm wondering, because I'm still really new at this collecting gig: what criteria constitute a "holy grail" deck for you all? i thought at first that it was just, how much a deck filled me with "wow I would love to own that" longing versus how rare/hard-to-find a deck seems to be.

 

But maybe there are other concerns to think about? How culturally valuable a deck is? How old it is? How much its value as a collectors item might be?  These aren't really things i know much about at all, so i'm just wondering about everyone else's thoughts!

 

 

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Wheel of Fantastic

There will be plenty of answers as to what constitutes a holy grail deck. For me, a holy grail deck would be a combination of a deck I would massively enjoy reading with; strong connection with coupled with rarity/high cost. There have only been two holy grails for me, both of them are RWS decks.

 

The first is the original 1960s/70s Albano Waite Tarot by Tarot Productions because the colours used in this deck are much more vibrant and 'electric' than the current version. Also, the original deck actually uses different colours than the current edition which makes all the difference. It took me many years to find an excellent edition copy (and it was pricey) but it was worth it. This year I obtained a second copy in used but good condition for a reasonable cost so I'm pretty damn pleased! The original Albano Waite is my all time favourite tarot deck.

 

My second holy grail is a deck I will likely never obtain but one can hope; a Pamela A RWS. This deck was originally released in 1910 after the initial release of the faulty 'Roses and Lilies' deck of 1909. If a copy of this deck were to ever come up for auction now it would likely sell for ££££. One for the truly serious collector. If Stuart Kaplan of U.S. Games doesn't already own one of these, I can easily see him going for it to add to his 1909 deck.

 

For me, the goal of owning a Pamela A would be for the historical significance. It was only the second edition of the deck but it was the one that made the RWS the tarot cornerstone it is today. It might as well actually be the Holy Grail for all the chance I have of owning one.

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My holy grail decks have mainly been the Greenwood, the Xultan Mayan. The Greenwood has never been hard to get, just expensive. The Xultan is available now, but was quite hard to find back when I was looking for it.

 

Why them? The Xultan, I liked the look of it, I was interested in Mayan stuff, and part of it was probably the 'thrill of the chase' and having to track it down.

 

The Greenwood was genuine regret that I didn't buy it when I saw it in the shops - I remember seeing it, picking it up, deciding to get it next time, but next time it was gone and then it was OOP and so on - and a firm belief that it was 'the one'.

 

Of course there's also the Kashmiri, but that's never going to happen...

Edited by ilweran
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3 hours ago, bookshop said:

And I'm wondering, because I'm still really new at this collecting gig: what criteria constitute a "holy grail" deck for you all?

I'm more of a reader than a collector, so HG decks are just anything I like that looks like it would read well, that I somehow managed to miss. I've paid more than they cost originally, but nothing approaching Greenwood prices.

From a collector's standpoint, limited edition decks are the way to go. The perceived value goes through the roof almost as soon as they go OOP, Of course there are a LOT of limited edition decks out there, so I try to choose wisely - in other words, get the ones I actually like and will get some use out of.

I don't recommend buying expensive OOP decks unless you just have to have one and you know you'll actually use it. Investment-wise, the bottom could easily fall out of these hyperinflated prices. For all we know, they could be going for peanuts in the future if they're republished and/or economic conditions get bad enough that people can't afford crazy deck prices any more.

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I'm not a collector as such, and I think collecting anything as an 'investment' that doesn't have 'real' value beyond being printed pieces of paper is not wise given the current state of the world. So for me the Grail deck is about beauty, attainability, and affordability - what I consider a justifiable price is probably lower than most of these go for. I thought I was getting the IJJ Swiss for a song once, but there was a different, rubbish deck in the box lol.

 

One good think about being a collector, I think, is that you care about the decks and can preserve and protect them and ensure they're passed to good homes - you're preserving a little bit of art for the future. I want to be able to use my decks though so probably shouldn't own very rare ones.

 

I'd love the original OOP Touchstone - I hadn't realized it existed until I saw it in a review video. I have the small edition and it's so lovely. Love Kat Black's art.

 

There were some beautiful images I saw on Pinterest that were towards a deck but weren't an actual deck - I'd love to be able to commission the artist to complete the deck. That would be wonderful.

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Thanks for the replies, everyone! This is all really interesting to me. I think I'm interested in what kinds of things draw people to decks, and why someone buys a "collector" deck versus a deck they want to pull out and use.  I think I buy all of my decks thinking I will read with them but when I get them some of them I tend to just sit and stare at rather than read with.

 

@Wheel of Fantastic I think it's amazing you've been able to acquire more than one copy of a deck you love so much! To me, I already have 2 RWS clones so don't really feel like I need another one, though I've been thinking about getting the Pam's Vintage for a while now just because i love the coloring. And the Pam A wouldn't be a holy grail deck for me because I think I don't feel connected enough to the tarot tradition to want to own it just for its own sake. But many people obviously do. 

 

@ilweran do you mean the silkscreen Kashmir (which is actually apparently for sale) or the wooden version? Either way I can see what you mean, haha. I really like the Xultan but i think all that iconography would distract rather than aid me, and it wouldn't be something I think my friends would ask me to read with.

 

Do you think the fact that the writer is trying to republish (a version of) the Greenwood is going to make the original deck more or less valuable? I know he's outraging a lot of people but I'm sure there will be plenty of casual deck-buyers who just won't care and will be glad to have an affordable copy of it again.

 

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I'm more of a reader than a collector, so HG decks are just anything I like that looks like it would read well, that I somehow managed to miss. I've paid more than they cost originally, but nothing approaching Greenwood prices.

So @katrinka what criteria do you use when you're deciding to buy like a Kickstarter deck etc? I've only invested in a handful of kickstarter decks while the auctions are running; i have paid a little more for some because the backer period ended before i learned about the deck: the True Black, the Slow Holler (as an ebay find), and the Brady Tarot, for ex. But I consider those to be pretty exceptional decks; most of the decks that I see in the wild, even the limited edition ones, just don't strike me as interesting, even if they are going to be worth more later. 

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I don't recommend buying expensive OOP decks unless you just have to have one and you know you'll actually use it. Investment-wise, the bottom could easily fall out of these hyperinflated prices. For all we know, they could be going for peanuts in the future if they're republished and/or economic conditions get bad enough that people can't afford crazy deck prices any more.

Haha, yeah I keep expecting the Slow Holler to get a reprint any day now, and I kind of regret pursuing it as diligently as I did, because once I actually had it in my hands, i found that  I really didn't connect with it as much as I expected it to.  But IDK, every deck is different. I have quite a few other OOP decks that i've paid a bit more for, but most of them have all seemed rare or not likely to be reprinted to me. The Silhouettes deck, which the author has no plans to reprint and has sadly kind of distanced himself from, is a good example of an OOP deck I'm really happy I bought, because it's beautiful and lush and layered and one of those decks I can see myself using forever.

 

As I'm writing all this out, ahaha, I am realizing that I don't really feel drawn to most of the newer currently on-the-market decks, while there are so many fantastic OOP decks that maybe I'm forever wishing on pipe dreams, haha!

 

@archimedea haha that's a great story about the IJJ Swiss deck, though — I hope you didn't lose *too* much money on it. I love your idea about commissioning the artist to complete tarot decks, I love that, I feel like i'm seeing half-finished decks all the time that i'd love to see fully realized. (I guess that's what Kickstarter is for!)

 

I feel like a few months ago I would have agreed with you about only collecting decks that I want to use to read with, rather than merely look at, but since then i've gotten a number of decks that are closer to the collector deck than the reader deck. Like the Minchiate Etruria, some replica 18th-c. TdM decks, the Carte dei Tarocchi, and the Louttre B, though I guess the Louttre B cards are sturdy enough (and laminated!) that I could read with them. But idk, I think part of me thinks that all of these decks are, like, conquerable — that I can read with them if I just put my mind to it! 😄

 

Thank you all for the replies, you've given me so much to think about! 

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5 hours ago, bookshop said:

Thanks for the replies, everyone! This is all really interesting to me. I think I'm interested in what kinds of things draw people to decks, and why someone buys a "collector" deck versus a deck they want to pull out and use.  I think I buy all of my decks thinking I will read with them but when I get them some of them I tend to just sit and stare at rather than read with.

 

@Wheel of Fantastic I think it's amazing you've been able to acquire more than one copy of a deck you love so much! To me, I already have 2 RWS clones so don't really feel like I need another one, though I've been thinking about getting the Pam's Vintage for a while now just because i love the coloring. And the Pam A wouldn't be a holy grail deck for me because I think I don't feel connected enough to the tarot tradition to want to own it just for its own sake. But many people obviously do. 

 

Do you think the fact that the writer is trying to republish (a version of) the Greenwood is going to make the original deck more or less valuable? I know he's outraging a lot of people but I'm sure there will be plenty of casual deck-buyers who just won't care and will be glad to have an affordable copy of it again.

"Free, other than the price of having them printed up" would be even more affordable, and it's with the artist's blessings. https://voicewithinthecards.wordpress.com/greenwood-tarot-book/

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So @katrinka what criteria do you use when you're deciding to buy like a Kickstarter deck etc?

I like vintage art. This is the deck I'm currently waiting for https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1468389582/tarot-card-deck-based-on-vintage-american-theater-posters/comments
There are always issues with such decks, the creators often have little understanding of Tarot and they're attempting to convey the card concepts using preexisting art that was created for another purpose.
But this one was only $25, and even if it turns out to be a lousy reading deck, I'll have a fun identifying the people. I expect to see Houdini in there somewhere. Maybe Anna Held and/or some of the other better known Ziegfeld girls, or some old movie actors when they were still doing vaudeville.

I buy very, VERY few kickstarter decks. I did get the Ethereal Visions, because the artist nailed the Art Nouveau style so well. It's no mean feat, most contemporary artists can't do that. When you look at other Nouveau decks, like the LS, you can tell right away that they were done in our own lifetimes. This deck gets close.

What else? I got a little rabbit oracle called The Carot. I think I paid $15.
One of my all time favorite Tarots, the Vamp, started as a kickstarter deck but didn't make goal. Luckily, I was able to get it on Etsy.

Taken all together, my criteria for a kickstarter deck is that it has to tick boxes other than just Tarot - there has to be another interest involved, since we really don't get to see all the cards.

 

Edited by katrinka
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2 hours ago, bookshop said:

@archimedea haha that's a great story about the IJJ Swiss deck, though — I hope you didn't lose *too* much money on it.

 

I feel like a few months ago I would have agreed with you about only collecting decks that I want to use to read with, ....

 

No, fortunately it wasn't much at all. I wouldn't have minded if the deck I got was something I'd use, but it was a very odd thing in dreadful shape, pale blue with kind of dated Romantic art, not my thing at all.

 

While I've said I don't think it's a good idea - I think I could easily be a collector if I was wealthier and had storage space. I have a small collection of signed books - I like things that have been in their author's hands - so if I were to collect decks, that would be a big factor. Like my favorite deck is the Spiral - if I could get a new first printing of that, signed by Kay Stevenson, that'd be pretty special to me.

 

 

 

Edited by archimedea
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@bookshop well to have the wooden would be beyond amazing! Mainly the silkscreen though, as that seemed much more realistic.

 

The Xultan is a lovely deck to look at, which is why it's not in my box of decks to go.

 

On the Greenwood reprint, I'm one of those in the "wouldn't touch it with a bargepole" camp. I have no idea how, or if, it will effect the value of the original. We have yet to see the quality of the new version and I was less than impressed with the quality of the Celtic Shamans Pack reprint. Chesca's art is available for people to print their own Greenwood and her interpretation of the cards is freely available.

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16 hours ago, archimedea said:

While I've said I don't think it's a good idea - I think I could easily be a collector if I was wealthier and had storage space.

 

Climate controlled storage space. I've had a couple of decks literally bubble and stick together from the humidity here. Luckily, they were cheap and mass produced. I'd hate for that to happen to a rarer deck. I keep my good decks that I'm not currently using in a drawer with big bags of silicone gel desiccant that I got at my job. (They come with shipments and just get thrown out if nobody takes them.)

You can see it happening on this box that I had sitting on a shelf with no desiccant. Luckily the book and deck inside are OK.

bubbles.jpg.9e14258d93852dda4c0a284fe323e4a8.jpg
 

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Holy Grail decks to me are decks I want, but can no longer get due to some limiting facter (oop in most cases).

 

Fantastic Menagerie, Monstarot, Trionfi Della Luna (Paradoxical Blue, Purple and the Italian text) for me.

 

Which mean regular wishlisted decks can easily become grails o.o

Edited by Tagi
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@Tagi I think the Monstarot is headed for a reprint so hopefully it won't be a holy grail deck for too much longer! And I'm pretty sure there are copies of the paradoxical Trionfi decks floating around Ebay if you can save up for them.

 

To me the Fantastic Managerie would definitely be a "holy grail" contender — it seems quite rare and very in-demand. It's one of those decks on my wish lists, but I'm not sure I covet it *enough* to list it as a holy grail deck. 

 

@katrinka that's horrifying. All my decks are out in the open and i'm so glad that I've never had to worry about climate control —  though with the summers getting hotter who knows. At least you have access to the desiccant!

 

@archimedea I think the added element of the book and autograph collecting is interesting! I sometimes shell out more for a limited edition version of something but it's not because i really want it because it's limited or signed etc. It's usually because I want some feature of the limited edition. 

 

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Saturn Celeste
4 minutes ago, bookshop said:

To me the Fantastic Menagerie would definitely be a "holy grail" contender — it seems quite rare and very in-demand. It's one of those decks on my wish lists, but I'm not sure I covet it *enough* to list it as a holy grail deck. 

Yesssss yes GIF

 

And if it could be reasonably priced I'd be so happy!!  It is one of my holy grail decks!!!

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Incidentally, my icon is the Magician from one of my personal "holy grail" decks that i was lucky enough to acquire — the Jugendstil, which was apparently reprinted in Japan in 2013 after being OOP for a while. It's a Major Arcana only deck, but it's really marvelous — it comes in a beautiful box with a full manga-style illustrated guide book, entirely in Japanese, but still!

 

http://www.marytcusack.com/maryc/decks/html/Tarot/Jugendstil.html

 

Buying Major Arcana-only decks is usually on my de-enable list of don'ts, but i've found that if the deck or the artist is unique/rare/beautiful enough, that matters to me less than i thought. For instance, I just bought a major-arcana only deck from Lynyrd Narciso because so many of his decks are rare/OOP and I was just elated to find any one of them at all still available.

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Saturn Celeste
7 minutes ago, bookshop said:

Incidentally, my icon is the Magician from one of my personal "holy grail" decks that i was lucky enough to acquire

I was thinking earlier when I was on this thread how much I wanted to tell you that I love your new avatar!  It's so wonderful to see throughout the forum. :azn:

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I’ve never really been able to afford anything but the cheaper mass market decks. I’d someday like a Grimaud Etellia deck. I know they are around, but I can’t afford a decent one. I’d also like almost anything by Il Meneghello, I’m not picky. 🙂

 

For a lot of people, these probably wouldn’t be stretch decks, but they are to me. Someday. 

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@Saturn Celeste aww thank you, that's very sweet of you to say 😄

 

@Czenzi it's just a thought, but if you get a Pay Pal credit account, Ebay will let you use it to finance items by paying month to month! That's how I was finally able to afford to get my ultimate holy grail deck, the Minotarot (after waiting for over a year for the price to go down significantly). 

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Wheel of Fantastic
On 9/6/2019 at 11:51 PM, Tagi said:

Holy Grail decks to me are decks I want, but can no longer get due to some limiting facter (oop in most cases).

 

Fantastic Menagerie, Monstarot, Trionfi Della Luna (Paradoxical Blue, Purple and the Italian text) for me.

 

Which mean regular wishlisted decks can easily become grails o.o

It's fascinating how one person's holy grail deck is another person's ho hum deck.

 

I own the Fantastic Menagerie kit and two copies of the Italian Trionfi Della Luna (it was almost oop so I went for a backup) but I only occasionally use them and they are far from my favourite decks.

 

I bought them when they were commercially available - so normal prices - so there's no angst over having tracked them down and then been disappointed. I wouldn't part with them though; the Fantastic Menagerie I bought back when I was learning tarot (bought it on Amazon UK for about £30 or so; Baba Studios have come A LONG way since then) so it has a nostalgic quality. The Trionfi Della Luna I bought because I like Patrick Valenza's art style and the deck is eye catching.

 

 

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On 8/31/2019 at 1:30 PM, ilweran said:

@bookshop well to have the wooden would be beyond amazing! Mainly the silkscreen though, as that seemed much more realistic.

 

Try emailing the artist. That's how I got mine.

 

My absolutely holy grail is the wooden one. I could JUST have bought one I was offered a few years ago by using ALL the money in my "If my car blows up this is for another one" account, but restrained myself. Some days I am sorry.,... Others: Linus - I bought one on ebay and it was lost in the mail (genuinely - well, likely stolen - I got a refund at once.)

 

Golden Quest and Gemrod. The Sangreal Thoth....

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I do think it's interesting though how many 'holy grail' decks for me are decks I assume I will just never be able to find at all, versus the number of decks I am, in fact, able to find pretty easily! Even the Wooden Tarot, for example — I never would have guessed you could just email the creator for one! But a similar thing happened to me just this week with another deck that I thought was very rare and out of print; I emailed the rights holder about something else and they mentioned to me they had the deck available if I wanted it! 

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These days I'm largely happy with what I have and don't hanker after decks in the way I used to. 

 

@ilweran This is the ideal state, I think!  I hope I reach this plateau before I run out of room for my decks, haha, but alas I feel like there are always new decks tempting me...

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  • 9 months later...
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And the Pam A wouldn't be a holy grail deck for me because I think I don't feel connected enough to the tarot tradition to want to own it just for its own sake.

I literally can't believe I said this, what were you thinking, me from a year ago....

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