Since we have more inside time due to the ongoing pandemic, it has changed what we look for when out thrifting. Usually we’d only search for interesting games not in our collection. As of late we’ve been doing more jigsaw puzzles to pass the time, so we’ve added those to our shopping list. It is more of a gamble to buy puzzles at thrift stores since there’s no good way to tell if it is complete or not.
To counter this issues, we typically search out puzzles we know to be more expensive and by better publishers. Among our favorites are 1000+ examples by Ravensburger or MasterPieces. Not only is their printing colorful and vibrant, the quality of the chipboard they use is superior to those of their competitors. But there is a whole class of specialty jigsaw puzzles that hearken back to days when jigsaw puzzles were really in their prime – the late 1800’s.
Back then most puzzles were still made out of wood on a jigsaw, hence their name. Companies competed for the consumers’ dollars by offering puzzles more intricate than their competitor. Including custom whimsy pieces and hidden designs took the puzzle-assembly experience to another level. In the early 1990’s, a new British company, Wentworth Jigsaw Puzzle Company Ltd., began offering a higher-end puzzle line that utilized many of these original manufacturing ideas, but made with modern technology.
When we walked into our thrift store and spied a pile of recently-donated Wentworth puzzles, Nicole first passed on them since they were only 250 pieces each. I had recently read about the history of puzzles in a book I found at our library. When I examined the pile, I instantly knew what they were (I still opened one to confirm). All dozen of them went home with us at an amazing price of only $3.88/each. You might be thinking that’s expensive for a thrift puzzle. But these originally retailed for around $60-$75 each and still bring $40 a piece on eBay!
What makes Wentworth puzzles so special? Some of them are oddly-shaped (not rectangle). They all have custom pieces that are unique to the puzzle and capture the theme of the image. They’re so exactly cut from wood that all the pieces fit together like a glove. Just assembling one, no matter the subject, is a pleasure. And I can’t forget to mention how every puzzle comes in a custom drawstring back inside the linen-finished heavy-duty box.
So far we’ve assembled three of them and are taking our time with the rest. These puzzle will never see a thrift store shelf again as they are ones that are meant to be passed down from generation to generation. I encourage you to find at least one for yourself so you can experience what is it like to assemble a true jigsaw puzzle and not one of the mass-market examples we’ve grown up with. You can buy new ones direct from Wentworth on their website or peruse the many out-of-print examples on eBay!
Have you ever had a true wooden jigsaw puzzle?