This is really a subjective question as I have done some puzzles that I felt were a complete chore to finish, while others have done the same puzzle and loved them. However, having spoken to many collectors over the years, I think there are certain types of puzzles that seem to be more popular than others. Here is my list of what makes a good puzzle
1) Wooden vs. Cardboard
Once in a while I come across a cardboard puzzle collector. However, they are rare. They obviously don’t last nearly as long as wood and generally the cut is pretty generic since there is only so many ways you can cut cardboard. Hands down, wooden puzzles win.
2) The Cut
There are numerous puzzles that have amazing cuts. Stave and Par are the two that probably would most often be cited, as reflected in their price. However, there are hundreds of other manufacturers that also have been very creative and have high quality cuts. What makes a top quality cut include; not too thin that knobs can break off, sharp or smooth curves that fit together well, no gaps so it’s clear which pieces fit together.
3) Unusual Shaped Pieces
Whether you call them Silhouettes, Whimsical or Special Pieces, the unique cut that many manufacturers over the years have used in puzzles are always neat. I have seen names, dates, hobbies such as hiking, everyday objects and even license plates used to as a model for puzzle pieces. While sometimes it makes the puzzle a little easier, it also makes it incredibly fun.
This is completely based on personal taste, but in general I would say that people tend to like images of people, whimsical designs (fantasy, cartoonish etc.) and famous places. Landscapes with no people or activity tend to be a little less popular.
3D puzzles are always a crowd pleaser. Having a puzzle literally pop off the table makes for added complexity and a visually interesting puzzle.
Surprisingly I have found thinner pieced and lighter puzzles to feel inferior. I think it’s the way it feels in your hand. A heavy piece has that sense of quality. Also some light woods feel close to cardboard, there’s nothing like a plywood or layered wood piece when you are putting a puzzle together.
7) “Non-Rectangular” Puzzles
Puzzles that don’t have the normal rectangular shapes often add a bit of excitement to the puzzle. Have you ever done a round puzzle?
These are just a few things that come to mind. In the future I hope to go into more detail and come up with some others as well.