- Comparison Between Commonly Available Waite-Smith decks by Michele
- This review compares and contrasts five Waite-Smith decks, the
Rider-Waite, The Original Rider-Waite (facsimile of the original four color version),
Universal Waite, Albano-Waite and The Golden Rider. All five decks use the drawings of
Pamela Colman-Smith and differ primarily in coloring and details. The Rider deck is the
one most commonly seen. It has good colors, but is drawn with rather thick lines and lacks
details such as shading and shadow. The Original deck, which is a recent release, uses the
same thick lined drawings, but is less colorful. There is no blue in this deck. Things
which we are accustomed to seeing in blue in the Rider deck are green in this version.
- The Universal has been redrawn using a finer line and is colored
with colored pencils allowing for good shading and shadow. The details are much more
defined and the deck does not look as flat as the previous two versions.
- The Albano-Waite uses the original thick lined drawings, but has
changed many of the colors or used deep, bright colors in place of the more muted colors
seen in other versions.
- The Golden Rider has redrawn the original pictures, using much
less detail than the other versions. The colors used in this deck are darker than the
others and there is metallic ink in either gold or bronze used as accent in many of the
cards. The border of all the cards is metallic bronze.
- From an artistic standpoint, the Universal is the best in my
opinion. The subtle use of shading and the fineness of the lines and details enhances Ms.
Coleman-Smith's original work. The Golden Rider is also very attractive. The lack of
details gives the deck a simple and open look. The metallic accents often catch you by
surprise when you turn a card over. The Albano-Waite is somewhat garish in appearance and
the bright colors look somewhat childish. The Original Rider Waite comes with a small
version of Waite's "Pictorial Key to the Tarot", without the illustrations. It
is nicely boxed with the book and would make a nice gift for someone who uses the
Waite-Smith deck, though it is not attractive enough to replace it in my opinion. The
Universal Waite and Regular Rider-Waite are available as deck/book sets, bundled with
"The Pictorial Key to the Tarot". It would be cheaper to buy them separately
though. Barnes and Nobles has re-released the book and I have seen it there for $5.98 on
sale, though I think the regular price is $7.98. This is for a hardcover version.
- There are other Waite-Smith versions out there including the
Hoi-Polloi, which is out of print, and the Deluxe, which has gold leaf edges. There are
also cheaply published imitations available, some with interpretations written on the
cards. For collectors, original releases are out there, but they are very expensive. There
are various subtle differences in the different printings since the original was released
and the price varies with the printing. I also have a "World's Tiniest Tarot"
version, which is a miniature of the cheap version, 1"X2" in size ($4.98!).
- Color Comparison Chart
||lt. pea green
||white flowers on lt. blue
|dk. blue w/gold stars
||white w/gold sun
||metallic gold on
bronze w/pink center
See different sized Rider-Waite Decks
If you would like to buy the Rider-Waite Tarot, click
If you would like to buy the Original Rider-Waite Tarot, click
If you would like to buy the Universal Rider-Waite, click
If you would like to buy the Albano Rider-Waite, click
This page is Copyright © 1997 by Michele Jackson