We receive quite a few calls from people with old wooden puzzles looking to sell them or find our more information about them. What people are often surprised about is that, in some cases, the puzzle they own, while it may be a great possible and hold a lot of sentimental value, may not be worth much on the resale market. If you have ever watched Antiques Roadshow, or one of the dozens of other collectible appraisal shows that are on TV, then you are probably familiar with experts informing an owner that just because it is old does not mean it has a lot of monetary value. There are a lot of reasons for this and we will cover a few.
When it comes to wooden puzzles, the first thing to realize is that over the last 150 years or so, there have been A LOT of puzzle manufacturers (hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands). Some are well known, such as Pastime, McLoughlin Brothers or Par, others are very obscure. During the first part of the 20th century, up through the depression era, when there was a period of puzzle mania , manufacturers popped up the way dot-coms did towards the end of the same century. Anyone with a little bit of artistic ability and a jigsaw, could go in the puzzle business. (In some cases it is arguable if they even had artistic ability!). As a result, there were myriad of puzzle companies, large and small, that sprung up. Many were short-lived and have little to no collectible value in the market today, partly because so many were produced that there are still relatively easy to purchase on the internet. That is not to say there aren’t ones that do have value. In fact, we came across a manufacture that we had not come across before and, in fact, there was previous sale data that indicated it was moderately valuable. So don’t let it discourage you if it’s an unknown brand, just be prepared that you may not be holding the next hidden Monet of puzzles.
Other factors that come into play when assigning value to puzzles is their condition and subject matter. In some ways, evaluating puzzles is like appraising art. First, the physical condition of the puzzle needs to be studied. Is it complete? Does it have the original box? Is the original paperwork/labels/tissue etc. included? Are the pieces damaged? Damage could include things such as being broken, uplifting (image is peeling away from the wood), missing knobs (the parts that interlock together), backing is missing, chipped wood or similar issues. Together all of these factor in to the overall condition. Also, interestingly enough, we have found over the years that certain puzzle images sell better than others, at least to our customer base. For instance, we see less demand for pure landscapes than for images that contain some sort of action, showcase a historical event or have interesting people in it.
All in all, we encourage anyone to call or email to discuss selling their vintage or antique wooden puzzles with us. We can quickly give you feedback if we think there may be value to your puzzles and research what we could pay to bring into our inventory.