The day I learned that some tarot decks are out of print and hard to find was the same day I discovered my 'soul' deck. It was The Gill Tarot, and it was love at first sight. I couldn't explain how or why, but I knew that deck belonged to me. I soon discovered that this quirky deck, published in 1990 by U.S. Games, had been out of print for many years. Devastated, I resigned myself to never owning my dream deck.
But as I began to explore the world of tarot more thoroughly, I picked up some tips and tricks for finding out of print decks at reasonable prices and through trades. It didn't take me long to find The Gill Tarot, and I have since added many an out of print deck to my collection.
1. Make a wish list
This one is nice and easy! Put together a list of all the decks you'd love to own. They can be as common or rare as you like, and your list can include one or 100 decks. Just get them down on paper.
Once you've compiled your list, allow yourself to release any attachment or sense of desperation. Know that if and when the time is right, these decks will find their way to you. Be patient.
On a practical level, this list will help guide your future searches.
2. Be search savvy
There's more to effective searching than just a few keywords! Educate yourself on the search functions and algorithms of eBay (or your preferred market site). There's no need to become an expert, but it will save you much time and hassle to understand some of the basics. If you don't know what a 'boolean' search is, look it up! Learn about eBay's alert service. Invest a little time now to save you plenty in the future.
Once you've got the basics down, start getting clever with your search parameters. It's great to be specific, but it can also be beneficial to try more vague search terms, too. Often sellers won't know the name of the deck they're selling and will instead use more generic, descriptive terms. Don't assume everyone selling tarot decks is a tarot expert.
Try searching in your local area to avoid unnecessary postage costs, but don't limit your search too much or you may miss out on that special deck.
3. Consider what it is you really want
When I was looking for the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot, I didn't care about the details because I'm not strictly a collector. I just wanted the cards to read with and learn from! Therefore, finding a mint, first edition in original packaging wasn't a priority for me. Instead, I found a loved, later printing without any box or booklet. What my purchase was lacking in extras it more than made up for in savings!
Do a bit of research about the deck you're after. Were there multiple printings? Are some editions more valuable than others? Was there are accompanying guidebook? Do you want the guidebook? These questions will help clarify your search terms.
4. Consider alternatives
Although there is an allure to out of print decks, if you're not at all interested in the collector's value and just want the cards, it might be worth considering alternatives. Some decks that are out of print in English may still be widely available in Spanish or German, for example.
To take this a step further, you may want to consider alternate decks altogether. For instance, if you're pining after the Victorian Flower's Oracle by Baba Studios (as I was!), you might want to consider whether something like the Floret Oracle could fulfil your needs instead.
5. Engage in your tarot community and participate in trades
Join tarot trading groups on Facebook, of which there are many! Find some local to your area as well as the larger, worldwide groups. Be active, communicate, make offers, be nice, and have fun!
Aeclectic Tarot has an incredible forum. But did you know they also have a member's only Tarot Trading subforum? You can subscribe for as little as $10 for three months to gain access to a very active buy, sell, trade community of tarot collectors.
6. Keep an eye out
Believe it or not, it is possible to find out of print decks in your regular metaphysical book shop. It's not unheard of for old stock to hide away in a corner for a few years before finally being snatched up by an observant and savvy shopper. You might even stumble on an old deck in an op-shop or thrift store.
With all of the above in mind, the most important thing is to remain patient. The prices listed on Amazon are very rarely, in my experience, indicative of the market value of the harder to find decks. Make your wish list and get comfortable with the idea of waiting.
Keep in mind, though, that many decks may go in and out of print. You may want to reconsider spending big bucks on a deck that only went out of print a few years ago, or if the creator is still an active member of the tarot community. There's no guarantee, but it's not uncommon for a once out of print and highly sought after deck to return to the shop shelves with a second printing.
I hope this has been helpful, and I wish you the best of luck in your tarot hunting!