In 1967 Frankie Albano copyrighted his new vision for a Ouija board (or more correctly a “talking board”). For simplicity pretty much everyone who has seen these assumes it was designed in 1967, so let’s use that until Frank says differently. This remains the first product designed and released by “Tarot Productions” to date. It looks as if the incorporation date for TP, Inc. was around January of 1968, as the Tarot Wheel (this is apparently the branded name of the device, as well as what we all call it colloquially) itself does not have the “Inc.” suffix, but the associated instruction booklet does.
The booklet also has a date inserted on one of the last pages as: 1-30-68 Tarot Press. Nerdy fact or not, this is the only time the words “Tarot Press” occurs; however this poster, published by “Tarot Press” is not only famous 50 years later (you can still buy reproductions on eBay for five bucks!) but it has an address of 716 North Fairfax (just a block from Melrose). That puts it right smack dab (and does anyone really use that saying anymore?) of “Frankie’s” stomping grounds. This art/business/tarot connection makes sense but it will take some serious digging through old business records in Los Angeles to see if this can be verified. Conclusion (SWAG, really): Frankie moved around a lot. He started TP as Tarot Press and then Tarot Productions, and then ended up incorporating it. See a suggested timeline of addresses and business names on this page.
On the left are web-friendly images of several Albano Tarot Wheel boards. At this point none have the original packaging, so that is a mystery. If you have the original box for a Tarot Productions, Inc. Tarot Wheel please send us images for archival and public eduction purposes .
If the images on the left are too small for you to be able to examine thoroughly, you can download the full sized images in zip-file format here (wheel), here (planchette), and here (book). Please be advised that these images are very large (several megabytes) and may exceed your data plan quota. Please let us know where you will be using these images if you intend them for any other use than personal examination. Some of these boards are available for use in instructional or entertainment videos. Please contact us directly to open a dialog with the board owner.
On a curious note, the Tarot Wheel shown in the “featured image” (at the top of the page) came from a shop (then) called Parlett’s Plaks (now Parlett’s Paper Expressions). It was here, in 1968 that the store owner, Ruth Roberts, sold this board to a Mr. & Mrs. Pearse. Mr. Pearse noticed the plastic wrapping (please see the images above) was becoming damaged, and not of much use in protecting the wheel, and expertly handmade the case it lives in to this day. He even fashioned a handle for the case to make it a “portable séance in a box.” At the other end of this story we were able to acquire this piece for our collection through a third party (reseller) who had only possessed this for a little over a year, while it sat unused. It is rare that we get such accurate details about the history of the items we are showcasing, but it is important for me to ask questions so that those who have gone before us, the people who have preserved these items for us, do not disappear unheralded.
UPDATE: This extra information has allowed me to discern that the heavy duty plastic “envelope that this board still resides in so perfectly is almost certainly the way the board came. The instructions and planchette would have been slipped in the bag as well, on the “face” side of the board. Holly Rider had an image on her site (now gone the way of the DoDo) of a planchette that indicates quite clearly that the item was shipped as a “finish assembling it yourself” accessory, and being as flat as the instruction booklet would have fit in the protective heavy plastic bag. The bag fits the board sideways only, and allows the contents to be clearly seen. This saves a LOT of money designing, ordering, and printing a large flat box (like a board game of the 1960’s would come in). TP was a small outfit and simply could not afford the Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers style of mass manufacture boxes. So, while wild speculation, this seems to be the most fact-friendly solution of the mystery of why there are no known boxes for these Tarot Wheels and why so many instruction booklets and planchettes are missing.
Other Frankie Albano creations
Frank R. Albano (a.k.a. Tarot Productions, Inc. of Hollywood circa 1968) created a few things we know of with certainty, and some things we are still researching. Facts first, then fun stuff (links lead to item-specific pages):
- 1968 Tarot Productions primary tarot deck
- 1968-ish Trumps only 22-card deck
- 1968-ish Trumps only 22-card GIANT deck
- 1968-ish Tarot Productions miniature deck
- 1968 Tarot Productions PKTT/*LWB