Archive for month December, 2018

It’s been around two years since our last change of appearance. Back then I bought some software that would allow people to sell their own puzzles on the site. Since then, some new sellers have joined Rare Puzzles and some others will come soon. During this time I have learned about some of the challenges of a marketplace website. The most important one is having buyers and sellers in different countries.

Change to improve

In an attempt to make things easier for buyers and sellers (and for me as well), I will be installing some new software in the next days. It is a WordPress plugin that hopefully will improve the one we have right now. As a consequence, the appearance of the website is also going to change significantly. For that reason, t is likely that at the beginning Rare Puzzles will look like a new website. However, the content is going to remain the same.

The change of appearance will probably take place in two phases. First, I will install the Dokan marketplace plugin and verify that everything is working. After some days, if there are no major hiccups, I might need to install a new WordPress theme so that Rare Puzzles keeps having a decent look.

Like in the past, it is possible that the site will be unavailable at certain times. Perhaps you will see a page that says Under Maintenance and you will not be able to log in or browse through the online store. However, I hope the transition will be smooth. As always, you can contact me directly at and share your ideas and suggestions. I always listen to them and I appreciate them very much, since they are a great help to improve.

Image of two workers painting for our blog post about our change of appearance

(Photograph by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York).

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Joaquín Sorolla was a Spanish artist that knew how to capture the bright sunlight of Valencia, his native land, as we can see in this Walk on the Beach, or Paseo a Orillas del Mar, which you can admire at the Sorolla Museum, in Madrid. This is one of his most famous paintings.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, by Joaquín Sorolla, Picture of the puzzle assembled

Two copies of 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach

I had two copies of this puzzle and both were incomplete. However, I was hoping that perhaps both versions were compatible, so that I could get a complete copy and leave the other one for replacements. Unfortunately, they were not compatible, but I decided to assemble both copies anyway. I have completed two copies of the same puzzle more than once before, and the second time is usually very easy because you can put it together over a puzzle already finished, so it was not such a big deal. Besides, except for all the pieces of the sand, the rest was quite feasible.

Very different copies

When I wrote about the possibility of replacing pieces from an incomplete copy, I mentioned some of the challenges. In these two copies, I found them all. In fact, except for the image itself, the puzzles were so different that they could have been from different brands. The cut was not the same, so the pieces were not compatible, and the shades of color were also slightly different.

However, the most significant difference was the fit of the pieces in both copies.In the first copy, the fit was so tight that I had to press them to put them in the right place. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember any Educa puzzle with such a tight fit. In the second copy, however, the fit was quite loose, if we compare with other Educa puzzles. I could pick up in the air the first copy as if it was glued, but not the second. The picture in this post corresponds to the second copy.

Other puzzles by Joaquín Sorolla

There are not many puzzles with paintings by Joaquín Sorolla and for that reason they are now difficult to find. Educa published this version of Walk on the Beach in 1991, but it was not the first puzzle available with a painting by Sorolla, since the company Diset produced a 2000 pieces version of Women at the Beach in 1990. I completed this Diset version some years ago and it was an excellent puzzle with very good quality. Years later Diset produced the same puzzle again, although in a different box. In 1996 Educa published the 1500 pieces version of Beach of Valencia by Morning Light in their elegant white box. They reedited it in 2005 in a black box.

Both copies of Walk on the Beach will be added now to the Missing Pieces section.

1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, Joaquín Sorolla, 85 x 60 cm, Reference number 7.719.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Educa, Walk on the Beach, Picture of the box

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More than a year ago I wrote a blog post about shipping insurance where I gave details about the first and only shipment damaged during transit at Rare Puzzles. Since our puzzles always travel in First Class because I pack them very carefully, the chances that they get any damage are very slim, except, of course, when a major catastrophe takes place. So far, we have only had one package that received damage during transit. Fortunately, the buyer bought insurance and we recovered (after some work) all the costs.

When shipping puzzles, there is a lot of backstage work that buyers are not usually aware of. Packages normally arrive to their destination within the estimated delivery time. However, there is always something happening that requires attention.

Problems with shipping companies and Customs

One package needed 4 months to reach to its destination in the USA. We were able to track it and watched it cross the Atlantic Ocean three times until it finally arrived. Another box went to Italy, but they sent it to a storehouse of the shipping company… 300 km away from its destination. No wonder that they kept saying they couldn’t find the street. In another occasion, they returned a box to me for no reason, the company refused to issue a refund, and tried to charge the return costs. There are many stories like these, which require attention, phone calls, complaints, disputes, emails, and a lot of time.

There is also a whole set of horror stories related to Customs, which belong in their own category, and I have a blog entry pending about this topic. Indian Customs held a package for several months and we almost lost hope of retrieving the box until they finally released it and delivered it to the buyer. Turkish Customs charged several times confiscatory fees and we ended up abandoning the puzzles. Swiss Customs requested fees three months after they had released a package. In most cases, I have been able to solve all the problems in the most favorable way for the buyer, but in other cases it was a lose-lose situation.

One package lost in three years

I have shipped puzzles to a lot of the corners of the globe. In three years, not one single package was lost… until now. They all arrived in perfect condition, except for the box that I mentioned before. However, very recently the company SEUR lost a package that was going to the United Kingdom. My experience with most shipping companies has been generally positive because they have (almost) never failed. It was SEUR in this case, but I am sure it could have been any other company.

Shipping companies fail sometimes. The most common incident is that they don’t collect a package on the date I schedule. When that happens, sometimes they make up an excuse to avoid responsibility and log in their tracking information that nobody was at home, or I didn’t have the package ready, or they couldn’t find my address. Then I have to write complaints and clarify the situation, an eventually sort things out. However, as long as the package arrives to its destination, I tend to understand human fallibility.

Old puzzles are irreplaceable

But the worst thing about losing a puzzle from Rare Puzzles is the fact that nobody can replace it easily. To a certain point they are all irreplaceable. Most sellers have only one copy of the puzzles in the store, and very rarely more than one. You cannot simply make a phone call to a magic warehouse and request a copy of certain 25-year-old jigsaw puzzle. For that reason, if a buyer loses a puzzle because it gets lost in the mail, it is not enough to issue a refund, so that she doesn’t lose any money. That doesn’t replace the puzzle she was looking for.

In this case, our buyer wanted a very particular puzzle. It was the 1500, Nathan, A Cat With Oranges. He had been looking for that specific puzzle for more than 20 years, after he left the original one framed in a friend’s house in France. So, it was not just any puzzle. He wanted that particular puzzle and not any other one that he might find anywhere else. I must say these personal or emotional reasons are not uncommon among customers at Rare Puzzles.

A little bit of bad luck

So, among the many puzzles that I have shipped, this one was precisely the puzzle that we lost. Precisely a puzzle that the customer had been looking for 20 years. Call it bad luck.

Several weeks after collection, I receive an email from my buyer: “There is no tracking information. When did you exactly send the box?”. The puzzle has not arrived yet, but there is no reason to get into panic mode, since I have seen longer delays and similar problems with the tracking before. I tell him that there is no reason to be worried. Then I contact the shipping company and request information and they tell me they don’t know where the package is. They ask for details and a description of the box and the contents, since they are going to try to find it at the last location in the tracking. Some reason to be worried now, but not too much, since it has happened before and the package eventually followed its route.

After waiting the necessary time according to the company’s protocols and after many communications with them, they confirmed that they couldn’t locate the box, apologized, and facilitated the information necessary to file an insurance claim. Now there was a reason to be worried… or not. As Forrest Gump would have said: “(Sh)It happens”.

A little bit of good luck

Barely one month before selling this puzzle I had found another copy in similar condition. Call it good luck. I communicated with my customer at all times and I kept him informed about every single step of the process. He knew that I had a second copy, so there was no reason to worry after all. When the shipping company confirmed that I could file the insurance claim because they couldn’t locate the package, I gave my customer two options: a full refund or getting the second copy.

He preferred the second copy and I sent it using the same shipping company: SEUR. I thought that it was unlikely that the lightning would strike twice the same place, and the puzzle finally arrived to the United Kingdom, to the satisfaction of everyone. Later, the shipping company resolved the insurance claim in my favor, since I was able to provide the invoice, the bank receipt with the payment and all the required documentation. I recovered every single cent.

But from now on, I won’t be able to say “No package has been lost so far”.

Image of the puzzle puzzle in the package lost

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