The market for Triumph cards was always very small as a proportion of all playing cards, less than 1 percent, as we have guessed.
Franco's numbers of the 1791 in Florence ...
... give the impression, as if Minchiate had a market part of 10%, the numbers of 1840 ...
... give the impression of 1%, which might be due to a greater loss of the interest in this period, and at some time time in 20th century the business was totally dead.
The list of 1559, sale of a playing card shop, in Rome, give the impression, that the part of the market for Tarocchi was higher than 1%, I think, though I haven't analyzed it in detail.
The "hidden great market" surely existed, in relatively cheap cards; this is why none have survived from the very earliest time. The uniformity of subjects in the surviving luxury cards proves that the custom made cards were following a model. Since the game covered half of the Italian peninsula by the early 1450s, this model had to be easily available, which means it was standarized and popular.
Well, I don't see the "uniformity of subjects in the surviving luxury cards", if you don't speak just of similarity between some Sforza cards. Generally I perceive a lot of creativity fo the hand painted decks.
I've big problems with the sentence "Since the game covered half of the Italian peninsula by the early 1450s, this model had to be easily available, which means it was standarized and popular." I don't understand, how you think, that one could give such an optimistic estimation.
We've an observable peak in the silk dealer tables in these early years o the 1450s, but Florence seems to be a producer- and export-city of Trionfi cards. From the situation in Florence one - a very special city - one cannot conclude on the rest of Italy ("the half of the Italian peninsula"). And the silk dealers are very careful, when buying Trionfi decks, they never buy very big numbers. They don't act like somebody, who has a very big trust in this business. The import notice of Rome 1463 with "309 Triunfi decks" is of a very different dimension.
By the way, Huck, before you ask "From where do you get the proof that there was a popular tarocchi" etc., the answer is - common sense.
But the players needed the same security in playing, so the the same conformity to a standard pattern to play well. This is the "common sense" I am referring to to.
My common sense says something different. To this theme I wrote recently:
15th century and it's playing card deck productions were - as far we can see it - very creative. It's the childhood of card playing and one cannot compare it with later or modern card player behavior. Indeed it's true, that modern card players prefer cards, to which they are used to. But there's no guarantee, that this habit was already common in 15th century. Likely players were happy about the increasing quality of playing cards and enjoyed new motifs.
Ross again ...
The proof of the standard number and subjects of the Tarot trumps is the uniformity of the luxury cards' trumps.
Well, in my opinion even the number of cards was not clear in the so-called "uniformity", nor their row with numbers and also not the subjects.
Of all of the thousands of possible subjects to choose for trump cards, the Cary Yale, Brambilla, PMB, Este, Charles VI, Catania, etc. etc., from Milan, Florence, and Ferrara, all preserve the same subjects.
I don't see this uniformity, especially if I observe objects like Guildhall cards, Goldschmidt cards, Boiardo cards, Sola-Busca cards, Michelino deck, Cary-Yale-Tarocchi, Minchiate, Mantegna Tarocchi. Italian cards were quite creative, and something similar one can als observe in old German decks.
There is no chance that these subjects were randomly selected each time, turning up the same subjects for the trumps.
I don't now, what you want to say. I think, that the finally most popular deck included elements of earlier deck compositions.
Boiardo's poetic invention and the Sola Busca are not proof of variety, they are fantasy creations, unique, no different from Mitelli or the thousands of Tarots that appear nowadays. The standard design is the basis for all of them, they are not independent inventions.
Hm. How do you define variety? Naturally variations demand some fantasy and creativity.
Well, we've decks with 14 special cards, with 16 special cards and with 22 special cards and with 41 special cards and with 42 special cards and then we've games with normal decks, in which some of the normal cards are defined as trumps, sometimes 8, sometimes 11, sometimes 13, sometimes 24, sometimes 26 and many other numbers of cards, which just fulfilled by agreement of the players on specific rules the role of trumps. That all is not "variety"? But that all are fantasy creations, just the only one thing, this little small papers with 4x14+22-structure are NOT FANTASY and NOT CREATIVITY, but the famous STANDARD?
In my humble opinion, all these models inclusive that one, which you call standard, have demanded fantasy and creativity at their time of origin, and also their chosen motifs demanded fantasy and creativity. It's just painted paper.
You seem to say, that there was an early standard, and that early standard was that, what later is proven as a standard. Where's your evidence for this assumption for the earlier decks? Well, you and me know, that you've no evidence.
I say, there were variations, and when you ask me, where the evidence for the variations is, I can point to them. You and me know that.
Nonetheless I'm not in the position to exclude the possibility, that the "early standard = later standard" theory might be right. Perhaps this will never be possible. I can only say, that in my opinion it has not much chances to be true. And I hope, that we find more documents, which might clear the question.