Deck Review: The Remarkable (But Questionably Legal) “Retro Thoth” Mini
I’ve been in the market for a “mini” version of the Thoth deck for quite some time, but I’ve been put off by several negative reviews of the three currently-available “pocket-size” editions from 1998, 2002 and 2005, in which the weak color palette and the out-of-focus, too-small-to-see details were roundly criticized. I already had four copies of the Thoth, three large-format and the standard-size “three Magus” update from 1983, but I wanted smaller cards to use when laying out and photographing large spreads, and also to pair with my RWS Centennial Pocket Edition in two-deck readings.
Enter the new Retro Thoth (additionally titled “Tarot ab Antiquis Egyptiis”) from Iseum Sanctuary; this deck has all the earmarks of a “labor of love” (and a potential “modern classic”), although it’s obviously a knock-off. I checked the status of the Ordo Templi Orientis/US Games copyright and it hasn’t expired, so maybe this deck is licensed to the environmental charity that is selling it. The production values are stellar. The sharpness of the images and the color integrity are magnificent, definitely the best in any of my Thoth packs going all the way back to 1969 (perhaps a bit too “saturated” in hue for a Thoth purist, but them I’m a fan of the luminous Albano-Waite RWS, so what do I know . . . ?). The card stock is decent, resembling good-quality playing-card board, the cards are slippery but not too slick or glossy, and the small size is perfect; overhand shuffling with this deck is a breeze, although I don’t think I want to riffle it (which I do poorly anyway). The (digitally?) “artist-restored” images rival the 1983 deck, which itself far outshone its large-format predecessors. Regarding copyright, there is no ISBN and no mention on the box of “under license from” or any other customary legal information, so the legality of this deck may be an open question; however, Amazon is selling it as agent for the charity and I assume (fingers crossed) that they’ve covered their backsides.
Some critics object to the revised backs, which dump the traditional Rosy Cross in favor of a “Rosy Ankh,” probably in line with the (historian-discredited) “Egyptian origins” motif of the packaging; however, the balance of the design and the color scheme on the backs are irreproachable. In addition, there appears to be a slight dark smudge or blur below the horizontal axis of the ankh on all the cards that is not on the originals. These quibbles don’t bother me at all since the backs are not “where the action is,” and I pay little attention them.
Here is a comparative photo showing the size difference between the Retro Thoth and the US Games 1983 standard edition. There is really nothing to nitpick about the image quality and the color integrity; if anything the Retro Thoth is crisper, richer and truer in this regard than its already-excellent forebear (back in 1983 Stuart Kaplan made the same assertion about that deck compared to the previous versions, so I think the lineage remains intact). Concerning the aspect ratio, the smaller cards fit exactly within the border frame of the larger cards (as shown in the 7 of Swords), telling me that the claims of dimensional accuracy in the marketing hype are valid. The long-term durability of the card stock remains to be seen, but at the moment I’m well-satisfied. The only thing that would make this deck better would be to have it available in a tin (and perhaps with premium linen card stock) but that may be too much to ask.
On a final note, the factory-sealed copy of the Retro Thoth that I received via Amazon was missing one of the promised “three Magus” cards ( the one with the rather curious genitals) that would have brought the deck up to the stated 80 cards. I contacted the seller by email and within an hour they replied that they would send me the missing card in the next day’s mail (since received). All they wanted to know was whether the deck was still sealed when I received it (it was) since there have been problems with opened decks being returned to Amazon with some cards removed. I’d call this exceptional customer service. In short, if you want a “mini” Thoth, skip the others and get this one at the sale price of under $15 US; I don’t think you will be disappointed (and no, this is not a paid promotional shout-out). However, there may be more to come on the question of legality, so you might want to wait.
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on December 24, 2021.