What's Right For You?
I’ve been interested in tarot for more than twenty years and have over fifty decks in my modest collection although most have been bought to look at and not use. For me, the artwork is the major influencing factor when deciding what to buy. I would always advise going for a theme which resonates, and there are heaps of different categories; Egyptian, Vampire, Faery, Animal, Russian, Crystal. In fact, you name it, and there’s a good chance someone has already created a deck in that field. It's a good idea to find a deck that you want to work with. I've known people who tried to start off with a traditional deck, and it just didn't speak to them on a symbolic level. There are all kinds of artwork available from the very tacky to the exceptionally well illustrated, and again, it'll depend on your personal taste to what you choose.
The amount of information you can get out of any card depends on your level of commitment. The booklet or book that comes with the cards rarely give the whole of what can be gained, but they can certainly be useful when you first start out. With this in mind, you might choose something which has a substantial guide book rather than the little white booklet that is known to come in deck only versions. If a deck has been self-published there's every chance there won't be a booklet, but it's easy enough to find interpretations written by one of the many tarot experts out there. Nowadays with the internet, you can probably find enough sites to read through, and you should be able to see the common threads running from one reader to the next. All cards in a layout need to be read together and some may alter the interpretations of others and whilst it's important to learn each card thoroughly it is more about being able to understand the energy behind it. It'll make it easier when it comes to making the reading more fluid. When you first start out it can be a lot like learning your ABC...it takes a while before you can make words out of those letters.
Oracles can give you a good reading and one of my all time favourites is TheFaeries Oracle by Brian Froud & Jess Macbeth; it's a fantastic deck if you want to understand emotions and behaviour. The Lenormand has made a comeback more recently and is a deck of thirty-six cards although some say you don't get the clarity you would expect from tarot if the question is a complex one. It's certainly nice to use the oracles as a break from regular tarot, and different decks really can have different uses. And finally, please don't listen to the stupid superstition that you can't buy your own cards. It's bullshit. Neither do you need to be psychic, or a gypsy, or the seventh son of a seventh son. Just find a deck that you're drawn to and buy it.
One of the most popular tarot creators of recent years is Ciro Marchetti. He now has at least three decks and they're loved by both beginners and experienced readers.
The Mythic Tarot is often a popular choice, and it follows the journey of mythic story with the minor arcana which some find useful.
I love Patrick Valenza's Deviant Moon, and I don't think it would be too difficult to pick up as a first deck.
Marcia McCord has created decks from old postcards, and some of the images are highly conducive to learning the meanings.
There are two websites in particular which are brilliant for Tarot enthusiasts: Aeclectic has the largest online catalogue of decks available and is an essential resource for any tarot enthusiast. They don't sell the decks but do provide links where they can. There's also reviews, a forum and card meanings.
The Tarot Garden is a well-stocked retailer of both out of print decks and those which are more readily available. The site has tarot based games, articles, reviews and more.