Some Tarot readers will tell you that you should never buy a used Tarot deck. Their reasons range from the claim that it will be forever imbued with the psychic energy of the previous owner, to the fact that you don’t know for sure it was stored in silk, all the way to the superstition that no one else should ever touch your deck.1
In my opinion, trading for or buying used decks is an excellent way to obtain that illusive deck that you’ve been dying to get your hands on. It is also the perfect way to get rid of decks that just don’t jibe well. Sometimes it feels as if half my Tarot collection is a revolving door–decks obtained through trades are traded again and again until just the right deck makes its way into my hands. My current Tarot collection is approximately half decks I have purchased new, and half that have been obtained through trades.
So, what to do with a used deck? Firstly, make sure all the cards are present. A great way to do this, and to help realign the energy of the deck, is to reorder it completely. This is also a wonderful way for you to get to know the symbolism of the deck. The next step is to clean out any smells that may be clinging to the deck, like cigarette smoke. Some suggestions for this include laying the deck out in the sun for an afternoon, or sealing it in a Tupperware/Rubbermaid-type container with cloves, dryer sheets, incense, or a cotton ball scented with a few drops of essential oil (protect the cards from these though).2
Once the deck has been rearranged and cleaned, it can be safely treated like any new deck. Sleep with it under your pillow, if that is your normal procedure for new decks, or carry it with you for a week or so. Study the images and get to know it. And if it turns out that it isn’t the right deck for you, go ahead and trade it for another one. Just be sure to give it a chance before you pop it in the mail.
All of this begs the question–does a used deck read as well as a new deck? In my opinion, absolutely. Although, I do offer one caution. If you had a beloved deck that was lost or damaged and you replace it with a used (or new) deck, don’t expect it to read exactly the same as the original. Decks seem to develop their own personalities as they are used, and no two copies of the same deck ever seem to read the same.
1. Do decks really need to be kept in silk? Can other people safely touch your Tarot decks? Read my opinions here: Tarot Myths – Part 1
2. Be sure to take care with these methods, as they can possibly damage your deck.