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The Problem with Bootleg Decks

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Read on to find out what bootlegs decks are, why you shouldn’t buy them, and where to buy authentic tarot decks in the Philippines.

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What are Bootleg Tarot or Oracle Decks?

Authentic Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards versus a counterfeit / bootleg - packaging
An authentic oracle deck versus a bootleg

“Bootleg” is a term used for something that is produced/reproduced without authorization. “Fake” and “counterfeit” and “pirated” are the more self-explanatory terms.

In this case, we’re talking about cheap, unauthorized, illegal reproductions of tarot and oracle decks that are being sold as the real deal. There are a LOT of them being sold online, and it seems most of them are coming from China.

“But it doesn’t matter if the deck is a bootleg! The quality of my readings stay the same regardless.”

If you knowingly buy bootlegs because you think this way, you are part of the problem.

It’s true that the cards are just tools, and readings are powered by the reader’s skill and energy. But that’s not the point.

The problem with bootlegs not is not about the quality of your readings. It’s not about you, the reader. It’s about the deck creators whose work is being stolen.

Every deck is made by someone. Whether it’s an indie artist who painstakingly illustrated every card and wrote the entire guidebook by themselves, or an artist and writer duo working in tandem, or an entire team within a big tarot publication house. Every deck is made through hard work.

When you buy a bootleg deck, you are demonstrating that you think their hard work is worth NOTHING. Because that’s what deck creators get when you buy a bootleg deck. NOTHING.

Buying a bootleg deck means you are paying thieves to steal for you. When a bootleg deck is sold, the profit goes to the bootlegger. No payment goes to the original deck creators. And your money ensures the thieves can keep stealing.

The actual point, in case you missed it, is that bootleggers are selfish thieves who undeservingly profit off the original deck creators’ hard work.

If you support these bootleggers by buying their counterfeit products on purpose, even if you already know that they’re stealing…then you are a selfish thief, just like them.

And if you don’t see how problematic it is to be using something born from theft as the primary tool for your craft and practice, then I don’t know what to say to you anymore.

The Differences Between an Authentic Deck and a Bootleg Deck

1. Bootlegs are smaller.

Just look at the difference between the sizes of the real Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards deck (purchased from Fully Booked Greenbelt), and an authentic one I accidentally bought on Carousell.

Some sellers (including the person who the bootleg to me) call these “Asian sized” decks. There is no such thing as an “Asian-sized deck”.

2. Bootlegs have QR Codes on the boxes and no physical guidebook.

Authentic decks usually come with a a guidebook. Bootleg decks come with a QR code that leads you to a PDF download when you scan it.

3. Bootlegs have cheap, flimsy packaging.

Authentic decks come in thick, protective boxes with high quality printing. Bootlegs come in low quality tuckboxes. Look at the images above, and you can see how thin the cardboard for the bootleg’s box is.

4. Bootlegs have cheap, flimsy card stock.

Authentic Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards versus a counterfeit / bootleg - card stock

This authentic deck in particular had thick, glossy (see next photo below) card stock, with gold edging. The bootleg’s cardstock is much thinner, is less glossy, and has no gold edging.

5. Bootlegs have lower-quality prints.

Authentic Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards versus a counterfeit / bootleg - print comparison

The printed artwork on each card of an authentic deck is clear and vibrant. Bootlegs have blurrier images and paler colors.

6. Bootlegs tend to be SUPER cheap.

The Goddes Guidance Oracle Cards deck in particular cost 949 PHP (around 20 USD). The bootleg shown in the photos above is selling for as low as 233 PHP (around 5 USD) on Lazada Philippines, and 169 PHP (around 3.50 USD) on Shopee Philippines.

Where to Buy Authentic Decks in the Philippines

There are TOO MANY bootleg sellers for me to create a blacklist of shops to avoid. The best thing you can do is to buy from shops that are confirmed to be selling authentic decks.

If you can afford to buy directly from the creators’ websites, or from websites like Amazon, please go ahead and do so. But I know shipping from abroad can be a bitch, so here are some local shops and sellers for you to choose from.

Fully Booked

This famous local bookstore has an impressive selection of tarot decks, oracle decks, and new age books. You can visit one of their branches or check out the following official links:

Stocks vary per link, so if the deck you want is out of stock in one, check the others!

Scarlophilippines on Shopee

This online shop has an impressive selection of hard-to-find. They usually have a limited number of decks available on-hand, but they also take pre-orders. I have personally purchased five decks from this store, and they have never failed me. Check them out on Shopee.

ArtemisPaints on Shopee

I have never personally purchased from this store, but other Filipino tarot readers on Instagram have, and they vouch for the authenticity of its products. Check them out on Shopee.

Other Tarot Readers

Sometimes local readers sell some of their decks second-hand. I do this on Instagram, and so do Eisel of @thewhimsicalarcane and Chris of @sacredspacetarot.

You’ll find some authentic decks for sale second-hand on Carousell PH as well, but be careful. I’m seeing a lot of bootleg decks there, too (including the one I featured in this post). Make sure to ask for lots of photos as proof of authenticity when buying from a Carouseller.

To end this long-winded post, let me just remind you the main problem with bootlegs and counterfeits of any creative work is that they are a slap to the original creators’ faces. Don’t think only about what benefits you as a consumer, or as a tarot reader. Sure, you save money on a deck, but you get a lower quality item that was ripped off from someone else’s hard work. Just because it doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean you should disregard the feelings and efforts of the people who actually created the deck in the first place.

There are plenty of free online resources for tarot, and there are plenty of options for anyone on a budget. Rob Rubin pointed out that the Rider Waite Smith deck is public domain, so that is the ONLY DECK that’s okay to buy for cheap. For all other decks, do the creators a favor and buy the real deal.

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