Acquiring a deck

Editions 1-3

I have some good news for you, and then some bad news.

The good news is first.

There is a fifth edition of the Oblique Strategies that you can purchase without bidding usurious amounts at auction, as was previously the case. Click here for more details. The great news is that this edition isn't likely to go out of print any time soon.

What other kinds of Oblique Stragegies decks can I acquire?

While the chances of finding an earlier deck of the Oblique Strategies for purchase may remain slim (more on this later), you can avail yourself of a virtual copy with some ease.

There are resourceful netizens who have produced nice javascript and Shockwave versions of the deck, too. You might try them when you're tired of using the cards at this site.

I've included a virtual copy for the deck for use and edification of our Mac and Windows-using readers. You will note that these versions represent earlier versions of the deck, so you're invited to update them if you wish (drop me a line if and when you do, and I'll add it here in order that your work may offer some succour to the masses.

  • Here's a Mac OS hyperstack version to download and unpack.
  • Here's a StuffIt archive with an Apple OS Applet inside.
  • Here are ZIPped archives for Microsoft Windows and Windows 95 users.
  • Lonnie Foster has written a lovely Palm Pilot version of the Oblique Strategies which lets you choose the version of the Decks you wish to use, or create your own deck.

Okay. What's the bad news, then?

As you already know, there were initially three editions of the Oblique Strategies produced and offered for sale through Eno and Opal in the late 1970s. After Peter Schmidt's death, no more commercially available copies of the deck were produced until a fifth edition was released in early 2002.

While there appears no limitations on the size of the fifth edition of the deck currently on offer, the number of copies of the original three editions of the Oblique Strategies is a fixed number. A footnote in the Eno/Mills book "More Dark Than Shark" provides us with the answer:

So far Oblique Strategies has been published, privately, on three occasions. The first printing was in 1975 (500 copies); the second with slight revisions, was in 1978 (2,500 copies); and the third, with further revisions, was in 1979 (2,500 copies).

Brian Eno/Russell Mills, "More Dark Than Shark", Faber and Faber, 1986, P. 98 (footnote 12)

So, if you're looking for, say, a first edition copy of the deck signed by both Brian Eno and Peter Schmit, it remains a very rare item which you'll only find at auction, if at all. That's true for all of the first three editions. Happy hunting. Got any artist or muso friends who were in their 20s in the mid-seventies? You could always start there. Another possibility is to save up a huge wad of cash and bid on copies on eBay, should they come up for auction...

The appearance of the 1996 fourth edition is even more complicated, and it's sufficiently rare that it's fetched shocking prices on the rare occasion that I've even seen a set up for auction. Since the fourth edition of the Oblique Strategies was commissioned as a private edition and a gift, no copies of this deck are available unless you actually know someone who received a copy and is willing to part with it. This means that the polite and circumspect seeker after a 1996 edition won't contact Brian Eno or Peter Norton looking for a copy of the deck - they don't have any. There are 5,000 copies of the deck spread throughout the art world (and I am reliably informed that they are spread far and wide).

Edition 4
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Oblique Strategies © 1975, 1978, 1979, and 2002 Brian Eno/Peter Schmidt
This web page © 1997-2002 Gregory Taylor