The Deck Is Not For Trimming

I recently had a letter from a customer who thought it would be a great idea to trim her second edition Arthur Rackham Oracle. No more than seven cards in, she realized what a horrible mistake she’d made, and that she’d ruined the deck.

Somewhat less recently, I saw a YouTube video made by a woman who’d trimmed her Tinker’s Damn Tarot. As I looked at the cards that she had destroyed, it made me so mad that I couldn’t finish watching the video.

Folks, my decks are not for trimming. Just Don’t Do It.

I’m not like U.S. Games, that publishes everything to a set mass-market pattern and puts a goddamn white border around all the art of all their decks. My decks are designed to FILL THE CARD. True, they sometimes have frames, but a frame is not a trim-able border.

A border is empty space that surrounds and contains the design. It is expendable. Nearly all my decks are 100 percent borderless.

A frame is PART of the design. As an example, my Tinker’s Damn decks have characters or other design elements that frequently break the fourth wall and leap out of the card, beyond the frame. If you cut the frame off, you not only chop the limbs off of several characters, but you completely negate the effect that I was trying to achieve.


There is a purpose to everything I put into a card. Nothing in my card designs is there without a reason. Don’t think you can second-guess me. You can’t. If you have any respect for the artist at all, DO NOT TRIM a Duck Soup Deck. If you do so, you will ruin it.

And when it comes to the second edition Rackham, why would anyone trim a beautiful gold-edged deck? It makes no sense!

In the case of this particular customer, I’m happy to help her out and send her new copies of the seven cards that she destroyed, so that her deck is restored. But I won’t always be able to do that! Y’all have been warned! My decks are not for trimming! If you think you can somehow improve my decks by trimming them, do me and someone else a favor and just give the deck to someone else who will appreciate it.


-- Thorn

***********ADDENDUM 12.31.20************

I should probably add that I come to this from the perspective of a lifelong Collector: of Books, Toys, Tarot Decks, Pop Art and especially Comic Books. And especially when it comes to collecting Comic Books, anyone who's been doing it even a short while knows that if you write your name on the cover, or even inside; if you fold the book and stuff it in your back pocket; if you trim the edges or cut out coupons to order something from the ads, if you cut out the pin-ups to hang on your walls -- if you deface your comics in any way or for any reason, you immediately and forever render them completely worthless as collectibles. EVERY comics collector knows this.

Now, the "collector" market for Tarot packs is not nearly as refined or as well-defined as that for vintage comics, but I don't understand why the same rules wouldn't apply at a very basic level. If I'm buying a rare, out-of-print Tarot Pack, I simply don't want it and wouldn't pay ANYTHING for it if it had been trimmed by the user. A damaged box or a missing LWB could foreseeably knock the value down a little bit, but the practice of trimming would render any tarot deck basically worthless as a collectible. So this is my bias going into this discussion at the start. I personally have decks that I think are aesthetically compromised by the existence of a border. But I would never think of trimming them. 

That's my informed opinion. You do what you want. It's your money.

-- Thorn.


  • Renee

    I am so glad you wrote this. I am stunned why people do it. It’s basically butchering the print and the card itself. If people need smaller cards, buy a pocket deck or mini deck – stop trimming. It’s a thing that as a graphic designer myself drives me crazy. I have NO IDEA why people do it other than putting their own mark on a card. Sorry, but it’s not yours to do so. Respect the artist.

  • Carina

    I can only imagine how frustrating peoples’ strange desire to excessively personalize, sometimes where totally inappropriate, is, especially when it destroys something you’ve so carefully crafted. And in this case it really blows my mind that someone would do that. I agree with everything you said, although it is sad you had to say it at all.

    I’ll be buying the rackham oracle very soon and am looking forward to the free vocabulary lesson contained within(technically, english is my second language and german came first haha).

    I think you’ve done a beautiful thing here and it would never cross my mind to detract from that – I am very much fine with having something that many other people have too.

    I’m new to Tarot and oracle and so glad I found this page, I can’t wait to see what you may do next. insert mister Burns’ signature hand motion here

  • Nadia

    I have gotten 4 decks from you which I absolutely love and adore!
    Especially the Trick or Tarot & The Rackham second edition deck.
    I would never ever trim any of my tarot cards. I never understood why anyone would. When you cut the borders off of any deck, it loses its charm! And you also ruin them. It makes me mad when people do that. Have a RESPECT for the artist!

  • Pattie

    Trimming isn’t always about aesthetics. Sometimes cards are just too big to hold comfortably.

  • Silvia Pancaro

    I agree with every word you wrote. One of the Tarot decks that I am in the process of creating, has a slight border to make it look like a portal, and the characters ‘leap out’ or express themselves beyond that demarcation. Very similar in theory to what you described. It’s all part of designing something different, and you’ve done a masterful job of it, so hope folks get this message ;) I love your decks by the way!

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