Back in the dawn of time, when I was but a wee lass, I watched my aunt read Tarot with the Hanson-Roberts deck. I loved to watch the cards flip and I never forgot the Queen of Rods – it was the card I most associated with her. Years later, when I went back to find this deck, it was the image of the Queen that let me know I’d found the right box.
Honestly, though, it wasn’t all that hard to find. As far as I can tell it’s been in continuous print since 1985. It’s definitely an RWS-inspired deck, and that combined with the non-threatening size and artwork makes it suitable for beginners and advanced readers alike.
One of the first things I noticed about this deck as an adult is that the cards feel tiny. They’re regular playing card size! Those with small hands will find this deck a better fit for them, and it makes larger spreads much more doable in tight quarters. It’s also helpful if you like to have clients shuffle your deck, as it’s more easily managed by people unused to Tarot-sized cards.
A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious. And isn’t that reversible back design pretty?
The deck comes in a tuck box with a LWB. The smaller size of this deck makes it wonderful for travel. The tuck box fits nicely in a purse, for instance, and the box can take a decent amount of wear before it needs to be replaced.
The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.
The card stock is standard and these cards shuffle well. The art has an almost fairy-tale feel and is done with pencils, making the images both vivid and soft. The portrayed figures are also more dynamic than seen in decks like the original Waite-Smith, with a full range of human emotion and a sense of movement.
A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.
Suits are also standard RWS, except that here the Wands are called Rods (a common substitution). There’s also an emphasis in this deck on blooming, on florals and greenery. It all contributes to the lush feeling of the art, helping the deck feel more friendly and approachable.
The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. Note the greenery on every card.
One thing I especially appreciate about this deck is that it’s obvious the Minors got as much time and attention as the Majors. That can be hard to find sometimes, but all the cards are visually consistent and equally well-thought out across the deck.
It should be noted that esoteric symbology is less prevalent in this deck than found in, say, the original RWS. I personally don’t miss it, but as always YMMV.
And now I’m going to include another gratuitous pic of the artwork because I’m writing this and I can. 🙂
Yes, here’s that dreamy Seven of Cups again (oops). We’ve also got the Page of Cups looking surprised at the fish in his chalice (as we all would be!), one of the most stunning Eight of Swords cards in any deck anywhere, an Eight of Rods that really appeals to me, a lovely Moon, and a rather quietly reflective Four of Swords. I’ve never pictured myself as the guy in the tomb when this card appears – I’m visiting the tomb, with all the quiet contemplation one should have in holy places.
The deck comes with a LWB, but as we’d expect of a deck with this kind of longevity and popularity there are companion books on the market. Two, in fact, and which one you get depends on what exactly you’re looking for.
Tarot Unveiled is a Tarot 101 book using the Hanson-Roberts images. It’s been around for awhile, and you can find used copies on Amazon for under $2 plus shipping. If you’re relatively new to Tarot this is the book to get.
The Hanson-Roberts Tarot Companion Book is written specifically for the Hanson-Roberts deck. It’s more like the book you’d find in a Tarot set than a Tarot 101 book and is around $13 used plus shipping on Amazon. If you’re looking for something specific to this deck and are beyond 101 stuff this would be the book for you.
Using the Deck
The somewhat cutesy art might make you think this is a fluffy deck, but it is surprisingly well-rounded. The Hanson-Roberts is one of my favorite RWS-inspired decks because it’s so universal. It’s a deck that will grow with a reader, from beginner to advanced, and everyone will appreciate how easy to manage it is.
Even better, this deck nicely works with all three purposes I have for a deck. They read beautifully, they can be great tools for Tarot spellwork, and the life in these cards makes them useful for meditation despite the smaller size. It’s like a trifecta of awesome!
The Hanson-Roberts has stood the test of time for good reason. If the art style appeals to you I say go for it. It’s a great buy.