How to spot a counterfeit deck


The first thing to keep in mind in determining whether a deck being sold is a fake is that all genuine RWS decks published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. are sold with some kind of printed booklet or guidebook. U.S. Games’ product descriptions usually indicate precisely how many pages the booklet is. If the listing indicates that there is no booklet, or that you have to scan a QR code to download a PDF of the booklet, this is a dead giveaway that this product is a fake. You should always check FAQs and reviews as customers will report and photograph what they actually receive.

Deck and Packaging

Some pirated products have been redesigned and look nothing like the genuine decks but other are very close facsimiles, so you need to pay close attention to the details to ascertain whether it’s real or fake.

If the box or (the listing) shows a QR code anywhere on it, this tells you the item is undoubtably a counterfeit. U.S. Games does not ever put QR codes on our boxes.

When looking at a listing for a RWS deck on a questionable retail website (or an unknown vendor on an established site) the best thing to do is compare the graphics and description on the box with the details provided on the publisher’s website. Compare the exact placement and sharpness of the images. If the images are cropped differently or slightly off center or out of focus, this is a red flag! Also compare the dimensions of the box and the card sizes described by the vendor. But as with the guidebook, since counterfeit cards are usually smaller and thinner the boxes are also smaller. Always check the publisher’s website. Another aspect to scrutinize is the card back. If the card back doesn’t match the publisher’s image, it is a counterfeit.

Card dimensions of legitimate Rider-Waite editions:

Rider-Waite Tarot (WR78)
70mm x 120mm
(2.75” x 4.72”)
Made in Italy
Pocket Edition (PWR78)
58mm x 89mm
(2.28” x 3.5”)
Made in China
Mini Rider-Waite (MR78)
39mm x 75mm
(1.53” x 2.95”)
Made in China
Giant Rider-Waite Tarot (GR78)
100mm x 172mm
(3.93” x 6.77”)
Made in China

Distinguishing factors of a legitimate Rider-Waite Tarot deck (WR78):

  • •  Manufactured by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
  • •  Made in Italy
  • •  Includes 36-page booklet
  • •  Both the deck and outer box are shrink-wrapped
  • •  High quality playing card stock
  • •  High quality playing card varnish
  • •  No QR code on outer packaging
  • •  Crisp, clear images
  • •  Blue and black plaid card back design (introduced by USGS in 1971)

The Listing

There are usually several obvious clues in the product listing that reveal whether the deck is genuine or fake. The Rider-Waite brand name is trademarked however many vendors illegally use the name as well as variations of the name. The legitimate title at the top of the box front is The Rider Tarot Deck®.

Counterfeit decks may also be described with vague SEO keywords like oracle, games, divination, original, playing cards, bright, positive, classic, party fun, magic, fortune-telling art paper, vintage, novelty toy, magical tarot, classic rider, board game etc. Sometimes the descriptions explicitly tell you that the cards have been altered from the original. For example, they may have been made smaller, larger, with brighter colors, a shinier finish or made borderless. Also scrutinize the spelling; if there are misspelled words like Coleman instead of Colman, or Ryder instead of Rider it’s definitely a fake.

Unusually low product pricing is usually an indication of a counterfeit deck being sold. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is, and the product is counterfeit and inferior.

Read customer reviews for the vendor and for the product you are considering purchasing. If customers complain that the deck is cheap or contains print errors, the booklet is missing, the cards are thin and some are missing, the box is flimsy, the deck is out of order you can be certain the vendor is selling fakes.

Please consider purchasing your tarot decks from independent new age retailers. Most stores have sample cards that allow you to examine the quality of the card stock and the finish. You can be reassured your purchase of a legitimate deck supports businesses that are held to a certain standard of operation for customer service, their employees, vendors throughout the supply chain and the environment.  

New Box

New Box Front

Old Box

Old Box Front