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Tarot Decks That Are Based on the
Rider (aka "Rider-Waite") Deck: a Comparison

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The Rider (Rider-Waite) Tarot

This is the "original" standard Tarot deck. It dates back to 1909. Earlier decks (with one or two exceptions) didn't have illustrations on the Minor Arcana cards.

Most of the Rider-Waite decks in circulation today are technically not the "original" version.   When the Rider-Waite deck was first created in 1909, there were two sets of printing plates, one for color printing and one for line drawings ("black and white"), which were used in the non-color illustrations in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot.   The color plates were destroyed in World War II when London was bombed by the Nazis.   During the "Tarot renaissance" in the late 1960's, U.S. Games printed cards using the line-drawing plates, and filled in the colors as best they could, trying to match the original deck.   In fact, this is what led to the rash of Rider-Waite clones that used the same line drawings, but filled in the colors just a bit differently (infra).   The artists filling in the colors didn't necessarily try to recreate the original.

More recently, with advances in printing technology, it became possible to recreate "exactly" the original colors, using existing 1909 decks; thus we now have a "facsimile edition" of the Rider-Waite deck.   The difference is very subtle, but that's what separates the aficionados from the rest of the world: they care about this kind of stuff.

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The Universal Waite Tarot

This one uses the same art as the Rider-Waite, but the colors are soft pastels. A very pleasing appearance; this is my favorite deck.

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The Albano Waite Tarot

This deck was created in 1968. It uses the same art as the Rider-Waite, but the colors are darker and bolder.

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The Golden Rider Tarot

      (Not to be confused with the "Golden Tarot").

Substantially the same art as the Rider-Waite, but with very dark, dramatic coloring. The Judgement card in this deck features an angel whose eyes have no pupils, a la Little Orphan Annie. I couldn't help myself ... I got a laundry marker and carefully drew in some pupils. It's the only time in my life that I ever altered the art on a Tarot card.

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The Morgan-Greer Tarot

Now the artwork is different; there's more of a "zoomed-in" treatment of the figures and objects. We can still tell, however, that the art was "inspired" by the traditional Rider-Waite.

This is a Tarot deck where the art goes all the way to the edge of the cards   —   there are no borders.

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The Aquarian Tarot

The artwork here is noticeably different. We're beginning to stray pretty far from the conventional illustrations.

For some reason, the titles on the various major arcana cards are done in several different fonts, which some people find distracting.

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The New Palladini Tarot

The art for this deck comes from David Palladini, who also created the Aquarian tarot.

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The Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot

This deck was created by the founder of Mensa.   It's based on the work of Stuart R. Kaplan, a contemporary of Arthur Waite.   It was originally published (back in the 1970's) by U.S. Games, but it isn't in their catalog any longer, and it's "out of print."   It's a collector's item; wants $387.00 for a USED deck (ebay has one for $200.00) [March 2022].

One of the most interesting features of this deck is that there aren't any titles written on the cards ("Judgement," "Seven of Swords," etc.).   Even the major arcana have only a number at the bottom, and it's very faint (and the Fool, key number zero, has no number at all).   This makes it ideal for review and self-testing.   It's more of an "intermediate" deck than a beginner's deck.   If you're planning to use this deck to do a reading for someone else, you'd better be familiar with the cards, so that you don't have to stop and count the number of cups on the next one that turns up!   "Uh, let's see ... that's the ... four, five, SIX of cups."

The art on a few of the cards (Ten of Pentacles, Five of Pentacles, Five of Cups, Death) is significantly different from the Rider-Waite deck.

Another interesting feature is that the foreground art is colored, but the background is black-and-white line drawings.   This makes for an interesting and (to me) pleasing effect.

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Tarot of the Cloisters

The cards in this deck are round.   The artwork is intended to resemble a stained glass window.

And take a look HERE
(an off-site link)
Versions of
the Death Card

Take a look HERE too
(another off-site link)

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