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Many things were different before the Internet changed our lives. If you are over 50, you probably had to write your college essays on a typewriter. If you happened to like jigsaw puzzles, you probably didn’t know any real person around you with the same hobby. As a consequence, most puzzle fans were quite alone and unable to share their passion with anyone. In those times, the book La Fiesta del Puzzle would have been impossible.

Then the Internet was born, filling every vacuum of human interest. Several online forums about puzzles appeared in different countries and in different languages. These forums gathered the disperse puzzle population around online communities. They later formed legal associations, organized competitions, and published puzzle journals for their members. The puzzle world has bloomed in the last 15 years. It was about time that someone would put all that information together and tell us the story.

That’s exactly what Alejandro Darias Mateos has done. He has written and published La Fiesta del Puzzle (The Puzzle Party). It is a book about puzzles and about people that like puzzles. It is the only book in Spanish on this topic and one of the very few in any other language. This significant contribution would have been inconceivable just two decades ago and we were curious about it. Alejandro has been very kind by sharing with us his story and the genesis of his book.

Alejandro Darias presenting his book at Puzzlemania

Tell us about your passion for puzzles. How did it start and how did it evolve over the years?

I summarized it on my personal blog some time ago. I think it started through osmosis in my childhood, since my parents had quite a few puzzles at home. My first memory was a 220 piece puzzle by Educa, which I got as a gift. It was then that I experienced for the first time the challenge of a jigsaw puzzle. After that, I have had an intermittent relationship with puzzles. I assembled them regularly since I was 7 until I went to college. Then I put them aside almost completely, except for some 5000 piece puzzles during summer times. I also attempted to complete the 13200, Clementoni, Lahaina Visions when I started my work career. Finally, I retook them with full force again in 2015 after discovering the Spanish puzzle forum Puzzleando.

You also participate actively in many puzzle competitions. Why do you compete? What are those events like?

I have participated in 52 competitions since my debut in 1987, when I was just a child. Somehow I have been part of puzzle competitions from the moment they started in Spain. As a sportsman, I love competition and I love to compete. However, most importantly, these events are a great opportunity to network and meet like-minded people. Furthermore, championships are an excellent excuse to travel and visit new places, which I also love to do.

The atmosphere during competitions is of positive vibes and joy. It reminds me of meetings and gatherings of entrepreneurs who have abandoned the rat race. They share a common hope and the conviction that they are in the right place. People smile and don’t look at the watch. Somehow it is a bubble outside of the real world. I am lucky because I love my daily job and I am passionate about what I do. However, I see that a lot of people are very unhappy in their jobs. It is comforting to realize that people can be happy for a few hours doing something they love to do. People probably will have the same motives that I have to participate in these competition events. And yet, I think the most relevant one is meeting other people with the same passion.

My goal in a competition is always improving the results of the previous event. As a pending goal, I would like to finish under 1 hour at an official individual competition. That would take me to the top 5 ranking in Spain. In doubles, I would like to finish in the top 3 at the national championships. So far I have finished 5th, with Soraya Pérez Carayol. Also I would like to finish in the top 3 at the World championships.

We could have made it last year. However, the competition level was really out of the charts and we finished 7th. I still have to streamline movements and habits in order to improve some decisive minutes. I have some ideas and strategies, but I still need to apply them in competition. Apart from the results themselves, I think I can highlight in competitions the training of self-control and nerves. I think I’m quite cold in that regard.

How have puzzle competitions changed over time?

Puzzle championships have evolved a lot. Initially, there was not even a ranking, with the exception of the competition of Castejón since 1997, and the historic events organized by Puzzlemania between 1995 and 2003. Thanks to the efforts of some participants like Jesús Casellas López (president of the Spanish Puzzle Association between 2012 and 2018), it was possible to create a valid ranking. The Association introduced a digital system devised by Alfonso Álvarez-Ossorio which recorded a story that otherwise would have been lost. Nowadays competitions have even shows designed by communication experts and graphic designers who donate their time for our enjoyment. In 12 years the evolution has been absolutely remarkable.

You are a member of the Spanish Puzzle Association (AEPUZZ). What is the role of AEPUZZ and what is your contribution within its structure?

AEPUZZ was born in November 2012 and it has currently around 500 members. Before that, participants of the Internet forums Puzzleando and PuzzlesyPiezas were the ones organizing events and competitions. However, there were certain limitations and shortcomings due to the lack of a visible brand. There was a need to become a professional entity that would attract sponsorships and visibility on the media. AEPUZZ was the response to such a need.

AEPUZZ manages dozens of puzzle competitions. Sometimes entirely, sometimes providing digital support. They help promote puzzles with a visible brand. They were decisive to bring together within a common tribe a lot of puzzle fans who were dispersed and lost. I am a board member and representative of the Association in Catalonia. I am also currently the director of their magazine. My job is to coordinate all the contents, design editorial strategies, contact contributors and write content. I even work on text correction as needed. The more people participate in its creation, the better.

How did you come up with the idea of writing a book about puzzles? What were your goals and your challenges?

I came up with the idea for La Fiesta del Puzzle in the summer of 2016. I was looking for bibliography about puzzles and I couldn’t find anything. So, I asked Fernando Álvarez-Ossorio, who is the person that knows more about puzzles in Spain. He provided a list of around 20 references, most of them in English, German, and Dutch, as well as some puzzle catalogs and museum brochures. There was nothing in Spanish.

I had written short stories before. For some time I had wanted to write something outside of my comfort zone. And then I realized I had found the topic. Besides, I would be a pioneer, so I couldn’t ask for anything else.

Image of the Book La Fiesta del Puzzle

La Fiesta del Puzzle began as some kind of “For Dummies” manual. Very soon the 300 pages started to multiply like a hydra. There were many contributions from other puzzle fans and people with different roles in the puzzle landscape. Initially, I had planned to limit such contributions to just one chapter. Later, I decided to extend them dynamically to the whole book. That was the best decision and the magical touch of the book.

More than 100 people live together along the pages of La Fiesta del Puzzle. In the first part of the book I write about how-tos for domestic assembly of puzzles. The second part is mainly about tricks and suggestions for assembly at competitions. In the third part, I provide a guide for all puzzle events in Spain and the 24 Hours of Hannut. It also includes information about collecting, puzzle entrepreneurship, or my vision of the future within the puzzle world.

The biggest challenge was finding the balance of a huge amount of information within a coherent text that would also include passion and humor. In fact, there was a time when I had to cut back and reduce material that has been left out. There is a lot of interesting content that will be published in a future book… at least.

Luckily, I didn’t find problems to publish La Fiesta del Puzzle because I decided to self publish. That meant I had to learn from scratch all the technical processes, like design, impression, layout, correction… Particularly, correction drove me mad. I had to re-read the book almost 10 times during the writing process. Half of them it was to make corrections and amendments. I was lucky to have the assistance of my friend Felipe Ortín. He is a writer and provided the contacts of the people that helped him to self publish his novels.

How was the reception of La Fiesta del Puzzle?

The book has been available for sale since February 12 to March 13, 2020. That was the date when the state of alarm was declared in Spain and the country went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 health crisis. During that month the reception was excellent. The book was distributed to six specialized stores in Barcelona, Madrid, Valladolid, La Coruña, Abrera, and Andorra. Also, the Architects Association (I am an architect by profession) has shown interest in the book. The first edition of the book has sold during that month. I’m sure future editions will sell as soon as we go back to our normal lives.

I might not be the right person to recommend my own book. However, I do believe it is a great contribution to the puzzle world. It is a book for any puzzle fan, but also interesting and attractive for people that are not into puzzles. The book collects an endless list of how-tos and puzzle activities. It also tells a lot of stories about puzzle people of every kind. It even deepens into topics related to personal growth. La Fiesta del Puzzle is a book written with passion.

As one of the people that now knows more about puzzles in Spain, how would you describe the health of the puzzle world in our country?

There are people that know much more about puzzles than me. It was precisely thanks to those people that La fiesta del Puzzle has been possible. My accomplishment was putting together a literary puzzle formed with thousands of pieces and without a previous image to use as a reference. Puzzles go always through cycles and ups and downs, like Anne Williams says in her book The Jigsaw Puzzle. Difficult times see an increase in the hobby, like the Crack of 1929 or the Covid-19 crisis these days. However, I think we have an advantage right now, because the “social” puzzle, which has been present during the last 30 years, will keep the tide up after the health crisis wears off.

I also think that the puzzle community will tend to a circuit of homologated competitions, with world rankings and large cash prizes. I don’t know whether it will happen in ten years, or in twenty, or in fifty, but it will happen. I’m sure about it.

After this contribution, what new projects do you have in store with regards to puzzles?

I am currently writing the sequel to La Fiesta del Puzzle, since all the events related to sales and presentations were cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis. I hope this second book will not require three years and a half, like the first one. Also, I hope to be able to retake the puzzle traveler project that was left in stand-by and aroused a lot of curiosity among puzzle fans in Spain.

A while ago I started a YouTube channel where I share how-tos and I put together puzzles with live presentations. My plan is to keep it active including reviews about puzzle events. Similarly, on April 23 I had an online meeting with puzzle fans through Facebook. It was a very interesting experience that I would like to hold periodically, although I don’t know how or how often.

In the meantime, I am working on the 9000 piece version by Educa of The Garden of Earthly Delights. When I finish it in a few months, I will start the 10000 piece version of The Surrender of Breda. That way I will be able to enjoy my dear large puzzles, where I find the true motivation.

Finally, I will keep organizing the puzzle competition of Viladecans. This event would have seen its 4th edition this year had the Covid-19 crisis not disrupted it.

Thank you

We would like to thank Alejandro for his accessibility and kindness the very moment we reached out to him, and for taking the time to respond to our questions. We hope the reception of the book will reflect the effort and passion that he put while writing it. And we expect he will keep contributing to the puzzle community in the coming years.

Thank you, Alejandro.

You can find more information about La Fiesta del Puzzle here, and you will be able to order a copy directly from the author at

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Not so long ago, assembling jigsaw puzzles was kind of a solitary passion for most of us. It was something that we enjoyed, but we couldn’t share with the people around us. Our friends and relatives had heard about it, of course. However, they probably considered it part of our geeky nature, but nothing more. Meeting someone on any public venue, striking up a conversation and discovering that both shared a common interest for puzzles? Never happened. It was a hobby that we couldn’t normally share with anyone. In those times, a puzzle competition was inconceivable.

Image of the Puzzle Competition in Spain, June 15, 2019

Internet and puzzle forums

Then, the Internet came to our lives. The Big Jigsaw Puzzle Collection forum at Flickr made the single most decisive contribution to putting together serious puzzle collectors and enthusiasts. For the first time, it was possible to meet online like-minded people. Now it was possible to talk about designs, pieces quality, editions, brands…, and share the passion for puzzles. The fact that most of those people were thousands of miles away from each other was just secondary. At the same time, similar local forums started to flourish in different countries. For example, Puzzleando in Spain, or Puzzle Forum in Italy.

Those connections helped us learn much more than what we knew. We found puzzles that we didn’t even know they existed, and we strengthened our collector’s mind. We could get feedback for the first time about a puzzle we had found or we had completed. In the past, when we finished a puzzle, there was nobody around to say High Five.

Association and puzzle competition

Inevitably, when people that share common interests get together, sooner or later they form an association. In Spain we have AEPUZZ (Asociación Española de Puzzles). They promote this passion and organize jigsaw puzzle competitions during the year in many different towns around Spain. And once a year, they organize the national puzzle competition, usually in Madrid. It took place this year on Saturday, June 15, 2019 in Aranjuez, very close to Madrid. It was their 10th anniversary, with almost 1000 participants.

I attended last year for the first time out of curiosity, and just as an observer. I wanted to see what was all about. For me, assembling a jigsaw puzzle was an activity related to leisure and calmness. When I think of a puzzle, the ideas that come to my mind are a cup of coffee, background music or a podcast, and perhaps rain outside. I didn’t see the point of rushing to finish, much less competing to find out who completes the puzzle first. It was like subverting the hobby into something very different to what it was to me.

I remember my surprise when I entered the place of the competition and there were several hundred people sitting on tables working on 500 piece puzzles. I couldn’t believe there were so many people so interested in puzzles as to spend their weekend on a contest. Besides, many participants came from remote places and they also had to pay for their trip and hotel. What was the point? One of the women that won the Couples contest started to cry as soon as they finished, when she found out they had won. I’m sure she was just relieving all the tension accumulated, but it struck me as absurd. I said to myself: This is not it.

Puzzle competition to have fun

Last Saturday I attended again, but this time I saw some things that I missed last year. I learned that, except for a handful of participants who aspired to win the competition, the majority of people went there just to have fun, particularly in the Couples contest. There were a lot of couples formed by a parent and a child, or older spouses, or friends. I learned that for most of them the contest was just an excuse to spend the afternoon doing something together with a lot of like-minded people that like jigsaw puzzles as much as they do.

It was also a great opportunity to meet in person people that you just know by their nickname on a forum, or vendors that have created an account at Rare Puzzles and are planning on listing some of their copies. The interesting thing is that the normal conversation was always about puzzles. The type of conversation that would have been impossible not long ago, was the norm here.

The winners of the Couples competition were Lina Ivanova and Marina Kolegova, from Novosibirsk, Russia. They finished the puzzle in 00:31:01, which is an excellent time. They also competed in the Individual contest and they finished first and second respectively. Lina Ivanova also won last year, so we have here some serious puzzlers.

GijonForEver and @Pradilla participated this year and they encouraged me to join them in the next edition. Never say never.

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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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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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The Japanese brand Beverly started producing not long ago some puzzles with no pattern at all. Just a solid black or a solid white puzzle. They first commercialized small 100 pieces puzzles of this type. Then they got bolder and published 150, 300, and 1000 pieces versions.

Finally, they came up with a 2000 pieces version. If the level of difficulty can be measured as difficult, very difficult, and extremely difficult, this puzzle defies classification and it is defined as Torture. In fact, there is a warning in the box: For masochists only. Users refer to it as white torture, white hellpure hell, or pure white hell. There are some people that have completed the 1000 pieces version, but not many brave enough to attempt the 2000 pieces version. I wonder whether it is more difficult than the 5000 version by Ravensburger of The Night Watch.

One day, talking about puzzles and movies, @aschenbach13 pointed out that there was an old movie where such puzzle appeared: Sleuth, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1972. That means that they came up with the idea of a white puzzle 40 years before the Japanese manufacturer.

White Puzzle in the movie Sleuth (1972)

Sleuth (1972)

A white puzzle and other games

Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) is a successful writer of crime fiction and an enthusiast of elaborate games and automata. He invites his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a hairdresser of Italian heritage, to his home to discuss the situation. From the maze that appears at the beginning to the tragic ending, the plot advances through games, deceit, appearances and, finally, crime. As the last words of the script state: “it was just a bloody game”.

I recommend watching the movie, of course. However, the interesting thing for us is the presence of a solid white jigsaw puzzle in the set. Since the protagonist is an enthusiast of games, it made sense to include a jigsaw puzzle. The director points it out with a close up in the initial stages of the film and several times later. It is very likely that they manufactured the puzzle specifically for the movie, since such puzzle was not probably available back in 1972. The puzzle seems to have 620 pieces (31 x 20), which is a very unusual count for a commercial puzzle.

I have created a short video with several clips where the puzzle appears. In one of them, Milo destroys violently the puzzle, and all the work that Andrew had put on it. It is a scene particularly painful for puzzle fans. However, after several days, a detective visits the house and the puzzle is fully assembled now lying on a table. That is quite unrealistic, though, since it would be really impressive (and almost impossible) to complete such puzzle in just a few days, even for the protagonist.

More movies with puzzles?

In 2007 Kenneth Branagh directed a remake of Sleuth. Michael Caine played the role of Andrew Wyke this time, while Jude Law played Milo Tindle. However, no games or jigsaw puzzles appeared in the remake, when they were very significant in the original movie. The result is much less interesting.

In the movie Mile 22, currently in theaters, the protagonist is also working on a solid white jigsaw puzzle. The intention is to portray him as a highly intelligent individual, but the puzzle itself doesn’t have any connection with the plot. Whether assembling jigsaw puzzles and intelligence are correlated or not, I will leave it perhaps for a future post.

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Today, I have started a new project:

Since 2015, I have been able to help a lot of puzzle fans and enthusiasts to increase their collections. I purposely avoided the expression “complete their collections” because we all know it is impossible. Hardcore puzzle fans always find new projects. In any case, I didn’t leave any stone unturned in order to locate puzzles everywhere. Later, I put them all together in a single place where anyone could get them. Many people found it much easier to buy them at Rare Puzzles instead of spending their time and effort looking for them.

After a long learning experience (and around 200 incomplete puzzles that their owners sold me as complete), Rare Puzzles has started to take form and consolidate, although there are still a lot of features that we need to include. If fact, it is a never ending process, but the site is improving one step at a time. It is interesting to consider how things happen sometimes, even when we had different plans.

Since Rare Puzzles specializes in out of catalog puzzles, I couldn’t include in the store current puzzles from different brands that are widely available in stores. If I had done that, the site would be just one more puzzle store. And yet, most users also like current puzzles and buy them, since they are much more affordable. In order to complete the service offered at Rare Puzzles, some time ago I created a subdomain, also in English, listing current puzzles. However, it was not a good solution, and I knew that sooner or later I would need to create a separate site.

A New Project in Spanish with Current Puzzles

For that reason, I have launched today, with a different design, but also with some common elements that everyone will be able to identify. I wanted to create something more than just an online store. There are many online stores that sell puzzles, but I wanted to create a different portal. A website specialized in puzzles where people could also buy puzzles, which is a completely different concept. Besides, I wanted it to be in Spanish, so that Spanish speaking users could find it easily.

However, everyone can take advantage as well and add any current puzzles to their orders. The process is as simple as sending me an email at, or contacting through the website at @siliconbook. It is important to note that customers from outside of the European Union don’t pay VAT. And the fact that they are brand new puzzles doesn’t mean the packing standards will vary.

Special Thanks

Rare Puzzles has given me the opportunity to get in touch with really extraordinary people all around the world. After a lot of communication, where sometimes you share other things that are not related to puzzles, one day you realize that the word customer doesn’t fit the person anymore. Instead, you realize that the word friend is more accurate, even when you have never met them.

One of these people is Lars Teglbjaerg, who is one of the most active puzzle fans in the world and amazingly prolific. He happens to be a great photographer as well, and documents carefully his progress on his puzzles. Besides, his choice of puzzles is aligned with my preferences as well. As a result, he has a great repository of puzzle images of great quality that are a wonderful resource. He has allowed me to use all his images for free at the new site

For that reason, all the credit is for Lars. The website has been live for barely 12 hours and I have already received compliments for the photographs of the puzzles assembled. Thank you, Lars.

So, we start a new venture now. There are currently very few puzzles available at, and the catalog is very short, but we will add more eventually. One step at a time.

Picture of a road to illustrate a new project started with Tu Puzzle

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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The website has been under maintenance for a whole week. I apologize for it. I have been writing all the legal information and i took longer than expected.

There was some mandatory information that Rare Puzzles didn’t include, so we were out of compliance. For that reason, I couldn’t open it again until all the documentation was ready. Some parts of it were very technical and some other parts were not easy to develop. But the work is done now.

These documents are legal information requirements and will appear from now on at the footer of the site. All users must know and accept them:

Picture about legal information with a gavel and law books

Image courtesy of

And some more news very soon…

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February 4th is the international World Cancer Day, founded by the Union for the International Cancer Control. It tries to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. However, the primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to reduce illness and death caused by cancer.

Image of the World Cancer Day 2018 Poster

If you are reading this post, chances are that cancer has touched your life or it will do it in the future. I learned it myself not long ago. I also learned to separate things that are important from things that are not. Cancer brings a lot of perspective and it helps to set priorities.

Donations on World Cancer Day

Today I have donated all the sales commissions collected during 2017 to the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer. They do a great job here in Spain. The Association provides information, supports research, organizes campaigns and runs programs to support families. They even have a 24/7 toll free number to provide help to patients, caregivers and relatives. However, their help comes often in a very humble form. Perhaps a volunteer listening to you in the waiting room of a hospital.

There are similar associations in most countries. The American Cancer Society is one of the most important ones. If you can afford making a donation to any cancer organization in your country, today is the day. You can also make a donation directly through the World Cancer Day website.

If you can not, you can always share the message.

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When you buy a very rare puzzle on the site, perhaps a puzzle that you have been searching for years, you want to be sure that it arrives at its destination in the same condition it left Rare Puzzles. Some visitors or new customers encourage me to pack their puzzles carefully. After that, they have to decide whether they want shipping insurance or not.

We all have received very poorly packed shipments when buying on other online stores or on eBay. Are you familiar with these?

  • Puzzle boxes just wrapped with a couple of thin pages from a newspaper.
  • Wrapping paper that has been taped onto the original puzzle box and then it’s impossible to remove.
  • Loose puzzles within too large cardboard boxes. The puzzle opens inside because they didn’t even tape it closed and the pieces are loose all over the place.

However, if you have ever bought one of my puzzles, then you know you don’t need to worry about packaging. Why? Because they will very likely be the best packages that you will receive. This is what a typical box will look like.

Image of a typical package that is shipped with insurance

  • Two layers of palletizing plastic protect each puzzle, even puzzles that are brand new and also keep the factory seal. That is also the best protection while the puzzles remain in storage.
  • Each puzzle has an additional layer of bubble wrap.
  • The puzzles go in a heavy duty cardboard box. I adjust the box size in order to reduce volumetric weight and shipping costs. Then, I fill the empty spaces within the box with foam and other padding materials.
  • Finally, I wrap the cardboard box itself with sturdy kraft paper (unless the box is really large).

So, if you can be sure that your puzzles always travel in First Class, why buying shipping insurance? Because sometimes shit happens, and insurance can save the day.

Shipping Insurance Just in Case

Image of a Damaged Box with an Apology note from USPS

After several hundred packages shipped through different shipping companies to many countries, a package arrived at its destination completely ruined. It happened in May 2017. That was the first and only time that my puzzles have not arrived in the same condition that they left. USPS included a note that read We Care, although that note didn’t help much with the disappointment of the buyer.

USPS didn’t provide a reason why the package arrived in such condition. It seems that the box was in the water for a long time. On several occasions, customers have said that the package got wet during delivery because it was raining. However, due to the careful packaging, the contents were intact.

In this case, if water passed through the kraft paper, the cardboard box, the bubble wrap, the two layers of palletizing plastic, the original factory seal, the puzzle box, and finally got into the original pieces bag through the tiny breathing holes ruining all the pieces… it is because the package was submerged in water for a long time. Interestingly, the pieces of the used puzzles survived. Water couldn’t get into the zip bags where I place them after verification.

Image of a Damaged Puzzle Box after being submerged

After that, we filed a claim. However, the process was not easy. The buyer had to go to the USPS office several times, fax a form, bring the damaged items… Then, Correos said they couldn’t approve the claim because they had not received confirmation of damage from USPS. So we had to repeat the process again. More emails, more phone calls, more faxes and more visits to the USPS local office. But we finally recovered the declared value, and the shipping costs, just when the buyer was ready to give up.

Pros & Cons of Shipping Insurance

I always recommend getting shipping insurance, even when the odds of damage to a package are less than 1%. It provides ease of mind. In case of loss or damage, you will recover the declared value and the shipping costs. On the other hand, Correos doesn’t have agreements with every country, and it is not possible to buy insurance when shipping to certain destinations, even if you are willing to pay for it.

However, even if you have insurance, a misplaced fax, an incompetent clerk on a mail office, a lack of communication between Correos in Spain and the Mail Service of the country receiving the package, might be enough to lose a rightful claim. That’s what I learned from this experience.

Finally, insurance can trigger Customs inspections. Some customers don’t risk to buy insurance when they know that Customs officers will check the shipment and perhaps charge it with sometimes ridiculously high import taxes.

So, it’s your choice.

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Many out of catalog puzzles are true collector’s items. Puzzle fans search for them and try to buy them in auctions websites. When the puzzle is really rare, the auctions final prices can reach surprising limits, since very motivated sellers keep bidding against each other.

How much is a puzzle worth? It all depends on the buyer’s motivation. Sometimes a person has been looking for a puzzle for a long time, perhaps years. For that reason, she will be willing to do anything possible to get it. After all, there is no way to know when it will appear again.

Some amazing auctions

Cartoon puzzles sell consistently at higher prices than art puzzles. Some of the large Heye puzzles have recently passed the 1,000 USD selling price, which is a surprising benchmark.

In 2016, the 8000, Heye, New York, Factory Sealed was sold on eBay for 3,050 US dollars.

That’s 0.381 USD per piece.

Until July 16, 2017, that was the highest selling price I had seen for a jigsaw puzzle.

Image of a screenshot of a Japanese auctions website

Screenshot of a puzzle auction in Japan

The 2000, Central Hobby, Villefranche, Teppei Sasakura, Factory Sealed reached 100,000 Japanese yens, or 893 US dollars.

That’s 0.446 USD per piece.

Teppei Sasakura is truly a very interesting artist and illustrator, and the puzzle is beautiful. So, how much is the puzzle worth?

Image of a 2000 pieces puzzle that reached 100000 yens in recent auctions in Japan

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I recently wrote a post saying that most people are honest. At least, I have come to that conclusion after having completed a lot of transactions with a lot of people everywhere.

I have had my share of disappointments when buying puzzles, but even in those cases I try not to presume bad intentions.

However, not long ago I had a negative experience on eBay UK and I am convinced that the seller was dishonest.

Judge by yourselves.

I bought the 5000, Falcon, Celebration on the Occasion of the Anniversary of the Military Order of Maria Theresa 1861. The puzzle was described as 100% complete.

The puzzle was sent to my friend in the UK and later shipped to me three months after I bought it. When I verified the puzzle there were 8 missing pieces. I contacted the seller through eBay.

After a week, no answer.

I opened a dispute through PayPal, my first PayPal dispute, asking how he knew that the puzzle was 100% complete, as he had stated in the description. He said that the puzzle was complete and his wife had verified the puzzle two times. He was familiar with Rare Puzzles an he assumed that I had resold the puzzle because it appeared as sold in the website.

I responded saying that the puzzle that appeared listed in the website was not his puzzle (it could be easily seen by the pictures). I asked again how he knew that the puzzle was 100% complete and why his wife needed to verify it two times. Was the first verification inconclusive?

Saying that a puzzle is 100% complete doesn’t mean anything. You need to know how many pieces a particular version of a puzzle is supposed to have. Only then you can say that a puzzle is 100% complete. Some 3000 Jumbo puzzles have 3000 exactly, but others 3008, and yet others 3036, while 3000 Ravensburger puzzles have 2992.

This seller kept saying that his puzzle was 100% complete, but he was unable to explain how he knew it. If he had told me that he knew because he had completed the puzzle himself, I couldn’t have said anything else. If he had told me that he knew because he counted the pieces and he got 5040 pieces, I couldn’t have added a word.

And then, to my surprise, he escalated the dispute for PayPal resolution, despite the fact that I had opened it.

And here is when I learned that he was dishonest. When he escalated the dispute he had the opportunity to provide more input, and he repeated that I had already sold his puzzle at Rare Puzzles making a profit. When he first said that to me, he was making a wrong assumption. After I told him that the puzzle I sold was a different one (it could be seen by the photographs), and I had his puzzle with me, he was simply lying.

He also repeated that his puzzle was 100% complete and there was no point for a refund after three months.

Interestingly, after he escalated the dispute, I was not able to provide any further information. I had the feeling that this seller knew well how to work the PayPal Dispute Resolution on his behalf. I was convinced that PayPal would resolve on his favor.

Then, to my surprise, after PayPal reviewed the case, without requesting further input from me, they resolved in my favor.

It didn’t matter that three months had passed since I bought the puzzle and I was not within the eBay return deadline. The PayPal Buyer Protection still applied.

I returned the puzzle to the seller and got my money back. I lost the return shipping costs from Madrid, but I received a refund for the puzzle.

But most importantly: I learned that the words 100% complete in the description of a puzzle don’t mean anything unless the seller can explain why he knows that the puzzle is complete.

So, the next time you are buying a 100% complete puzzle, ask that question, because sometimes people lie.

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I have been considering for some time the possibility of starting a service to replace missing pieces in old puzzles. Educa’s Lost Piece Service is useful, but when the puzzle is 8 years old, replacements are not available anymore. The Jigsaw Doctor is a great alternative, and the people that have used the service are happy with the work, but…

What if it was possible to replace a missing piece in an old puzzle with a matching original piece?

I have my lot of assembled incomplete puzzles. Perhaps some people might need a piece from my puzzle to complete their incomplete copy. Surely other users have another incomplete puzzle that they might be willing to offer for replacements.

With time, it is possible to build a repository of puzzles available from many different users.

Can it be done?

I got input from visitors and customers, and I went back and forth without making up my mind until I recently completed 4 copies in a row of the 3000, Ravensburger, Oriental Folk Scene. It has helped me learn about puzzles and about the limitations of a lost piece replacement service.

First of all, the same puzzle may have been manufactured at different times of the same year using a different die. In that case, even when the puzzle is the same, the pieces will not be compatible. Of the 7 copies I had of the puzzle, 4 of them had compatible pieces because they were manufactured with the same die.

Does that mean that the pieces of the four compatible puzzles are fully interchangeable and match perfectly?

Well, not really.

The pieces match perfectly in shape. However, depending on the way the cardboard was placed on the cutting press, the images within the piece might not match exactly. The variation can be just a couple of millimeters, but it can be noticed once the piece is in place.

Let’s look at this piece with lines in it.

The shapes of the pieces are identical, but the image inside the piece varies slightly. When you put the piece in place, the lines don’t match and it can be noticed.

If the piece doesn’t have clear lines or it has a less defined image, then it will be difficult to notice. The replacement of this damaged piece can pass undetected.

Another problem is the fact that the colors and shades of the printed image can actually vary, and the replaced piece can be noticed because it looks it has a slightly different color. This happens mainly with solid colors, like pieces belonging to the sky.

And yet, there are examples of perfect matching. You would never guess that in these pictures one of the pieces was a replacement.

Finally, the pieces that belong to the columns or rows at the border of the die, will actually vary in size and might not be compatible because they will be either too large or too small. That will not be a problem if it is a border piece, but it will be if it is a piece in the inner column or row where the die is turned in the press. Luckily, those pieces are barely just 2% of the total.

I think that Educa’s Lost Piece Service would probably have similar shortcomings, and I am sure that the hand crafted pieces manufactured by the Jigsaw Doctor will not be perfect either.

For that reason, my conclusion is that an imperfect replacement will be better than an incomplete puzzle. It’s worth trying.

Let’s start.

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I once bought a puzzle that was described as new. I had specifically asked whether the puzzle was new or used, and the seller told me that it was new.

Then, I received this:

After having bought more than 1000 puzzles all over the world, I think I have been scammed in every continent.

I don’t take it personally anymore. It just happens. And yet, I can confidently say that most people are honest.

I never presume bad intentions, and I tend to think that the cases in which the seller knows positively that he is lying are the exceptions. Of course, I have had some of those too.

Most of the times, the seller simply doesn’t distinguish between new and like new. In his opinion, the puzzle is new because, after all, it was just opened once but never assembled.

But the buyer cannot read his mind. When the puzzle arrives, he opens it, and it doesn’t match the description, it is too late. Even when most sellers will be willing to accept a return, they will not accept refunding the shipping costs and you end up losing. It is very rare that people will take full responsibility.

How to avoid this? You need to ask more specific questions than simply “Is it new or used?”.

If you ask “Are the pieces sealed in the bag?”, it is possible that you receive a used puzzle that has been resealed, for example with those flimsy bags that you can find at the entrance of some supermarkets. It has happened.

If you ask “Are the pieces in the original plastic bag?”, it is possible that you receive a used puzzle with the bag opened. After all, the pieces were in the original plastic bag, and you never asked whether the bag was sealed. It has happened.

So, I normally ask “Are the pieces still sealed in the original plastic bag or the bag with the pieces has been opened before?”. That question is very specific. When the seller responds to that question saying that the bag was never opened, you can be pretty sure that you are receiving a puzzle with the original bag sealed as it came out of the factory.

And yet… people make mistakes.

I once received a puzzle whose bag had been carefully stapled and it actually looked like a sealed bag puzzle when it was placed in the box. It was not. Sometimes the seller of the puzzle is not the original owner and doesn’t know the exact condition. When he checks the puzzle, he might simply think that the bag was sealed.

Sometimes the puzzle arrives with a partial tear through one of the edges of the bag. The bag can accidentally tear when handling it (it has happened to me), and it is difficult to detect if you don’t check it carefully. It is even possible that the bag tears during transit, and if the tear is just several inches long, the pieces don’t even come out of the bag.

In some of these cases I am sure that the seller knew that his description was misleading or simply false, but I want to believe that it is normally due to ignorance or carelessness. You can avoid them by asking very specific questions.

Needless to say, when you buy a used puzzle, the confidence with which a seller says that the puzzle is complete, doesn’t literally mean anything. He might be sure that the puzzle is complete, and he can honestly believe that it is complete, but that doesn’t mean that it is.

Just expect that  one out of every four used puzzles that you buy will be incomplete or defective.



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We all know how it feels when we buy a used puzzle and it is incomplete.

Sometimes we know long before the puzzle is assembled, when we feel it’s impossible we have missed that corner piece, or there is no way the white piece we are missing will be among all the dark ones that are left.

What if that happens with the same puzzle… 7 times?

The 3000, Ravensburger, Oriental Folk Scene has been jinxed for me. Almost every time I found a copy and got it, the copy was not right and it couldn’t be listed for sale. After verifying the puzzle, there were missing pieces, foreign pieces, damaged pieces, poorly manufactured pieces to replace a missing one… There was always something.

That’s why at Rare Puzzles all the used puzzles listed are complete and in good condition to the best of my knowledge. In order to list a good one, sometimes seven are discarded.

And if I make a mistake, I am always accountable.

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Thank you very much to everyone who has provided input about features and appearance of the new website. The new WordPress theme has been giving me some trouble for some time, but some issues are being solved. Here are some updates:

  • The problem with the display of the images in the catalog has been (finally) solved. The images were not cropped proportionally and visitors couldn’t see the whole picture of the box. That same problem remains in the single product page, but the solution for that is also close.
  • The side navigation that allows users to filter the puzzles based on Brand, Content, Condition, and Number of Pieces was added after it was disappeared for some time. The option to include an additional filter to select In-Stock/Out-of-Stock puzzles is not feasible in WordPress except with some tweaking of the code, which is beyond my knowledge at this point.
  • However, in order to make the navigation easier, the Out-of-Stock items have been removed from the catalog. They are still indexed in search engines and they still appear in searches within the site, but only available puzzles are now listed.
  • The shipping module has not been working, and users received the frustrating message that no shipping method was available. Although I have been reserving puzzles and providing shipping quotes through email communication, I am still working in order to solve it. It should work with Spain now and in the next days I will test it with other countries.
  • The web hosting plan has been upgraded to a supposedly better plan with more server resources. It seemed we had maxed out the capacity of the previous hosting plan, and users were starting to receive error messages, pages loading very slowly, and lost connections. There should have been an improvement in performance.
  • Now that some of the main issues are either solved, or close to be solved, we will start allowing other users to post their own puzzles. There are people waiting for those changes to appear.
  • Finally, since many users are also looking for current puzzles, I have created a side store with puzzles that can be found almost anywhere, but with better prices, as an additional service to Rare Puzzles customers. I wanted it to be separate, but not too far, so the address is

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This post is difficult to write, and perhaps I shouldn’t write it at all.

However, now that the site is changing, it is important to provide some background on the genesis of Rare Puzzles and a reference for the future.

The core and heart of Rare Puzzles is in this post.

In March of 2015, my brother Raúl was diagnosed with Klatskin tumor, a very uncommon type of cancer and extremely rare for patients in their 40’s. It was inoperable and incurable.

I was then working and living in Los Angeles, CA and decided to come back to Spain and be close to my brother for whatever time left he had. I quit my job, sold almost everything I owned, and took a flight back to Madrid.

I am sure that most of you have been touched by cancer one way or another. I have learned that cancer doesn’t leave any family untouched, so you probably know what it looks like. Raúl‘s cancer started to set our schedules, our routines, and our plans. Patients and caregivers.

I knew I wanted to be there 24/7. I didn’t want to have a job schedule. I wanted to be able to pick up my car keys at any moment and drive my mom to or from hospital, or go and pick up my niece and nephew from school and watch them until my sister-in-law came back home.

So, I thought I might start selling my own puzzle collection, some of them extremely rare, in order to make some income. It was not a difficult decision. Cancer gives a lot of perspective. Then, I realized that I could actually be able to pay my bills and work from home finding and selling rare puzzles, and I started the website at the end of 2015. It worked better than I had anticipated.

I was able to be very close to Raúl during his last year of life. I spent a lot of time with him, helping him with arrangements that he knew he had to do, assisting him in the completion of a book about motorcycles that he had written, and enjoying every single minute of the time with him, knowing very well that the days were counted.

Rare Puzzles was started only for that purpose, and it served the purpose well.

That is why I am so grateful to every single person that has bought a puzzle from me. They thought they were buying a puzzle, when in fact they were buying me time. Priceless time.

And that is why now that the website will open to other sellers, 100% of commissions charged for selling the puzzles on the website will be donated to the American Cancer Society and the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer. The only amount that will not be donated will be whatever is necessary to run the site, like web hosting, domain renewal, software improvements, etc.

That is also why I want Rare Puzzles to have an ethical dimension that goes beyond a simple selling website. Please, consider this before listing one of your puzzles on the site.

Life goes on, and I look forward to retaking some of the plans I had before cancer touched my life taking my brother’s.

Raúl passed away on May 26, 2016. He was a good and noble man.

Raúl Gallego, Sep. 24 1971 – May 26 2016

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The site will open for members to sell their own puzzles soon.

I have been doing a lot of research in order to decide what type of software would do the work. Although the platform will remain the same, the appearance of the site is going to change.

I hope it will be for the better.

What this means is that other users will be able to open their own “stores” at Rare Puzzles, list their own items, set their own prices, and ship to whatever countries they wish.

There will be some initial restrictions though:

  • Members will need previous approval through a simple request form.
  • Products listed will be reviewed for approval as well, at least in the beginning.
  • Only Factory Sealed and Sealed Bag puzzles will be listed for now.
  • Only out of catalog puzzles will be listed.

It will be something similar to listing them on Ebay, but without insertion fees, without time limitations, and for half of Ebay’s commissions.

The payment preferred method will still be PayPal, since it provides the best protection for buyers and sellers.

Terms and Conditions pages will be inserted covering all these details.

And there will be some challenges, like creating highly customizable shipping options, or dealing with currency.

However, we will work it out.

Suggestions and ideas will always be welcome at

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… to count pieces of used puzzles.

I recently received a beautiful card beautifully written from a friend and former customer, with an indeed beautiful photograph titled Florence under the Snow, Paris, 1950, by French photographer Édouard Boubat.

It was a nice and elegant touch that I truly appreciated.

Among the smart things that my friend wrote, there was a small footnote: “Life is too short to count pieces of used puzzles”.

He was referring to the verification process of every used puzzle listed at Rare Puzzles.

It made me think that it was about time to introduce some of the changes that were planned.

Starting next week Rare Puzzles will allow users to list and sell their own puzzles on the site.

More details coming soon.



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