Antique Tarot Cards
Tarot cards are a form of playing cards which are commonly associated with fortune tellers and the occult.
History & Description
Tarot cards were introduced in the mid-fifteenth century in various parts of Europe. Each deck usually contains seventy-eight cards which are illustrated with small pictures that can sometimes be very beautiful and evocative.
Although today tarot cards are commonly associated with occultists and mystics, they were originally used in card games such as Italian tarocchini, French tarot and German tarock and were played throughout Europe from the fifteenth century until the early-eighteenth century.
Tarot cards were adopted by secret societies, mystics and occultists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and continue to be used by palm readers and followers of divination in the present day.
Guide for collectors
The most valuable examples of tarot cards are those that are autographed by the artist or creator, novelty or art-themed decks, trump-only decks or limited editions decks. Antique decks, such as Visconti tarot decks from the Italian Renaissance or the beautifully illustrated seventeenth century Italian and French decks can realise extremely high prices when sold at auction.
Antique tarot cards are commonly sold through national and international auction houses. For the most prestigious and valuable examples of tarot cards, collectors should look out for historic cards and games catalogues advertised at either Christie’s or Sotheby’s.
Notable auction sales
On June 21st 2006 at Christie’s in New York, a Male Page of Staves tarot card, dated to Milan in the fifteenth century and attributed to Bonifacio Bembo, realised a price of $20,400.
On June 21st 2006 at Christie’s in New York, a seventy-eight deck of tarot cards, made by Louis Carey, Strasbourg, circa 1795, realised a price of $9,600.
On June 21st 2006 at Christie’s in New York, a seventy-eight deck of tarot cards, made by Ferdinando Gumppenberg, Milan, circa 1812, realised a price of $6,600.
On May 26th 2008 at Phoebus Auction Gallery in Hampton, Virginia, six tarot cards, designed and signed by Salvador Dalí, realised a price of $3,750.