My short bio: Hi everyone. I am an entrepreneur that started a jigsaw puzzle company called New York Puzzle Company in 2007 as a way to try to self publish my photography. The company has been decently successful thus far (though it went in an entirely different direction from the original photography concept), so I thought I'd share my experience here and answer questions people may have about starting up wholesale products company and/or how jigsaw puzzles are made. Ours are the cardboard variety, not the wooden kind, which has a very different process. We make all of our puzzles in the USA - in Tipton, Indiana to be specific. This is my first time using Reddit, so hopefully it's easy to figure out and I can get things running smoothly.

Of course, if anyone is interested in buying a puzzle from us, I'm happy to offer people here free shipping. Just use the discount code RedditAMA when you check out on our website - That discount code will work until the end of May. We're primarily a wholesale company, so the retail site is pretty basic, but hopefully it works for what we need it to do.

For now we're only shipping within the USA from our site, so for those of you living elsewhere, feel free to email us at [email protected] and we can try to find a way to ship to you if it's possible.

My Proof: Not sure what other type of proof I can really offer other than a photo of myself in front of a closet full of our puzzles, so here you go:


Going to head off of here for a while to get some food and start enjoying the weekend. Thanks to everyone for their questions and comments. I had a ton of fun and definitely got some great feedback from you all.

I'll be back periodically over the next few days to see if there are more questions that I can answer. And feel free to PM me if you have more questions as well.

Thanks again!

Comments: 98 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

HikerMiker5 karma

For many people that do a lot of puzzles, they are about the feel of the pieces first and content of the puzzle second. I won't do a puzzle if the pieces don't feel good in the hand or fit together well and uniquely and are not quality. So you tend to stick to a manufacturer you know and like (mostly Ravensburger). How would you rate what you are doing compared to other makers like Ravensburger?

NewYorkPuzzleCo9 karma

This is very true, and something we think about a lot. We make our puzzles with 80 point chipboard. From what I can tell, it's actually a bit thicker of board than Ravensburger uses (I think they use 77 point, but I can't say for certain as I don't know what type of board they use). Most puzzle companies use somewhere between 57 and 67 point chipboard.

A lot of people like the look of blue board - which is where the back of the board is blue - instead of grey board. In actuality this is mostly a branding thing. Blue board is seen as higher end simply because of its color but it's actually made from the exact same materials and then simply dyed blue. We use grey board because it's the thickest board we can find that's made in the US.

The other key to finding a good board is to use a single ply board. We found out really early on that the board we originally started using was actually 2 sheets of thinner board glued together. This caused lots of problems because occasionally there would be dry spots in the glue and the pieces would actually separate into two halves. We finally found a new manufacturer that could do the same thickness board as a single ply sheet and we've since gotten rid of this problem.

The last part about the feel would be the type of paper used. There's generally 2 kinds - matte paper and linen style paper. Linen style paper is really pretty awesome - it reduces glare and gives a linen style feel to the puzzle - but it's also a lot more expensive. We're finally at the stage now where we're looking to switch all of our puzzles to linen style paper. We'll probably be doing this in 2016.

twistedfork3 karma

My dad fucking love puzzles. It was always a part of my childhood and he loves hard puzzles.

Are there any plans to do any more 2000 piece puzzles? World of Possibilities would be too easy for him (because they are all pictures within the picture so he'd easily sort them out).

NewYorkPuzzleCo7 karma

We do have plans to do higher piece counts, but not sure exactly what we're going to do yet. I'd like to get up to 6,000 pieces, but finding high resolution images of the types of imagery that we use (namely vintage magazines, etc) is tough - they're a bit limited in how large they can be blown up before they look like crap...

This fall we have a 2000 piece puzzle coming out that's a wildlife map of the US. It has images of different types of wildlife that are found all of the country and then the latin names of each of them. It's a pretty awesome image from the 1950s that I'm pretty excited about.

Doing puzzles that are more than 2000 pieces is tough just because they're really expensive to make - it takes multiple printing sheets in order to get the puzzle big enough.

Also, most puzzles that are over 2000 pieces are actually a single die that is used multiple times throughout the course of the puzzle - so there could be 2 pieces that are the exact same shape and you can only tell them apart by the image on the piece. This is because a lot of manufacturers don't have dies or machines large enough to handle piece counts over 2000 pieces.

IAmA_Kitty_AMA1 karma

Well I think after a certain size, the whole magazine cover style might no longer be feasible. Covers were designed artistically to be basically 10x12 inches whereas a 5000 piece puzzle would be like 5 x 3 feet.

Maybe you disagree, but I feel like this would make it both too easy as well as somewhat boring to have 5000 pieces and more limited objects in the image. While I actually disagree with the super busy large puzzles put out by companies like Ravensburger, I do think that the image has to be more complex/detailed than something smaller.

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Yes, this is definitely true. For a 5000 piece puzzle, it would almost undoubtably have to be some type of collage. Or a photomosaic type image. Magazine art can definitely not be blown up to the size of a 5000 piece puzzle without losing massive resolution and without being incredibly challenging as a result.

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

No worries. I actually think it's a pretty awesome puzzle as well. I'm not above sharing competitors' puzzles on here - ours are very cool, but some other folks are doing cool things also.

For instance, this one of a vinyl album collage.

chameleonarchreactor2 karma

My biggest fear is that piece is missing. What kind of tests/ systems do you have in place to ensure I don't loose my sanity? (I always find that last piece lurking somewhere)

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Ha! Well, the best test we do is during production and that's just to make sure it's a closed system. It will be very clear pretty early on in the process if a piece gets stuck in the die machine as it will jam up and not cut through successive puzzles if a piece gets caught there.

There's also several people watching the production itself whose job it is to make sure that the pieces are all there when the puzzle is cut - more people are hired around the holidays when production is at its highest.

But, as I mentioned in previous comments, because we use multiple dies for each puzzle, it's impossible to find specific missing pieces. We do, though, replace the puzzle for free if you have bought a new puzzle from us or from a store that we sell to and you send the cut UPC code into us by mail. At least that way you'll be assured of getting a new puzzle if a piece gets lost from the first one.

There's also a company called that I think specializes in creating new pieces to replace missing ones. That's always an option as well.

chameleonarchreactor1 karma

When you say dies do you mean like a key or a way the puzzle was cut? That's interesting. Do you have any plans for making 3d puzzles?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

A die is the metal tooling that is used to cut a puzzle. It's like a big cookie cutter where the entire shape of the puzzle is one big piece of metal that then cuts the puzzle (which is the cookie).

I do want to do 3d puzzles, but it's hard to find a manufacturer in the US that can do it. Ravensberger has 3d globe puzzles which are pretty cool, but I think they may own a patent on it? I've started looking into it, but haven't found a way to do it yet.

DisGateway2 karma

My niece loves your guys puzzle's. Any plans on getting Hello Kitty?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Also, I'm happy to hear that your niece is a fan :) Does she have a favorite puzzle out of curiosity?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Oh wow. Hello Kitty would be a pretty major license. My gut feeling is that they would want way too much of a guaranty and royalty fee for us to pursue it, but I can check. Also, my guess is that they already have a puzzle partner, though I don't know that for sure.

Also, we tend to focus mostly on the specialty market. We're not really in many chains. I would have to do a bit of research to see if Hello Kitty is more of a mass market license or specialty license, but the idea is a good one. Especially if they don't have a partner in place already.

We used to do puzzles of Mister Men/Little Miss, which is also owned by Sanrio (who owns the Hello Kitty brand). Maybe I'll get in touch with them to see what the story is, but my guess is it's probably not something we'd be able to get the rights for.

DisGateway1 karma

Flower Fairies. She's done one so far. I only suggested hello kitty because the ones that are made suck.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Yeah, I can see how that would be the case. A lot of times the company making puzzles for a brand as big as Hello Kitty is actually a Master Toy License. These companies bundle all sorts of products into one license and then get the rights to make all types of toys - figurines, plush dolls, puzzles, etc. Often times puzzles are an afterthought in these deals and so the puzzles that end up getting made don't get much thought put into them unfortunately.


Full disclosure; did you start this thread because you wanted exposure? I dont think anyone could blame you if you did and Im not trying to be a dick. Im just wondering if Im right..

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Partly yes. Spring time is slow in the puzzle world - a lot of people wanting to spend more time outside. So it's partially about exposure to the brand and partially about the potential for making sales both now and in the future.

It has the added benefit that we don't actually get to converse with our customers very much. Since we're primarily a wholesale company, we deal with corporate buyers and the like, but I have little idea what the people who end up doing puzzles actually think about when buying a puzzle, so there's that too.

I also thought there would be a lot more questions about starting a company and how to do it. I thought I'd have some insight about that end of things so that I could try to give a bit of advice to people starting their own companies.

HikerMiker1 karma

I have little idea what the people who end up doing puzzles actually think about when buying a puzzle

We have a large table at my work place. People will often bring in puzzles and they get worked on over time by anyone around. We also have friends we vacation with and there is always a puzzle sitting on a table in the living room that gets worked on when we are there. Sometimes that puzzle will sit there a loooong time if it is an especially difficult one. I also think most puzzlers buy their puzzles by size because they know how long it will take to do them. I would really look toward 1500, 2000 or higher puzzles for that market.

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Thanks, much appreciated feedback.

The one retail show I ever did was during the holidays last year and I definitely did get a lot of people asking either 1. what is the hardest puzzle we make or 2. do we have anything over 1000 pieces... I think it's definitely a good idea for us to start doing things in the 1500 and 2000 piece range to broaden our appeal a bit.

WiseWordsFromBrett2 karma

Do Different Puzzles use the same tooling? Meaning could i interchange pieces or does each puzzle have a different pattern. (Not from different manufacturers).

NewYorkPuzzleCo3 karma

Yes and no actually. Our manufacturer has about 7-9 puzzle dies for each piece count.

They keep using the same die for every puzzle that we make until the die becomes too dull. Then they substitute it out for a new die and sharpen the other one and put it back in the rotation.

This means that two of our puzzles could definitely have interchangeable pieces, but it also means, if the die became dull in the middle of a production, that one of our puzzles could actually have 2 different die cuts even within the same style. It's sort of a craps shoot.

This is why we can't actually replace missing pieces when people lose pieces. We can replace the puzzle, which we tend to do since puzzle people are fairly brand loyal and we want to keep people happy, but replacing an individual puzzle piece isn't as easy as people want it to be unfortunately.

Eryx8972 karma

If you could get a puzzle license for any brand on Earth, which would you pick? Have you been denied for licenses?

NewYorkPuzzleCo7 karma

Right now, I'd have to say that Marvel Comics would be pretty much on the top of my list. It has worldwide appeal, the movie franchise has a huge pipeline in the works that should keep it going for many years and the imagery fits in really well with our aesthetic. Also, I think no one is really doing the type of puzzles that we would make from their art. I know that there are puzzles that already exist for them, but if I had a license from them I would focus much more on individual vintage covers from the early X-Men, Spiderman, Captain America, etc and target those towards adults and kids alike. Most of their product right now, from what I can tell, seems to be focused on kids - it might be because they're partnered with Disney (I believe).

And yes, I have been turned down many times for licenses before. When we were just getting started, getting licensors to even sit down for meetings with us was tough. We tried to get the Peanuts license for a long time, but ended up getting turned down for that. That one was pretty recent, too. Going to the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas helped - it showed that we were actually interested in investing resources in licensing rather than just making phone calls and potentially wasting people's time.

reformed_PUA4 karma

I'm curious about the licensing angle. Can you walk us through how that works? Do you pay for a license image on a per-unit basis?

NewYorkPuzzleCo8 karma

There's a couple different ways to go about licensing.

For the most part, what we do is we pay a percentage fee on a per-unit basis. The percentage has a very wide range, though. And I've been told it differs depending on the type of product that's being produced. Generally it ranges anywhere between 6% and 12%, with some going as high as 15%. Obviously stronger brands can dictate higher percentages and there's not much you can do to try to negotiate around that unless you're a big player. So, for instance, if our royalty rate is 10% and we sell a puzzle for $20, we pay $2.00 for every puzzle that we sell.

There's often times a guaranty involved as well. Companies will often give you a rate, but if you don't hit a certain volume in sales then you end up having to come out of pocket to the pay the rest at the end. So if you have a 10% royalty rate and the guaranty is $5,000 a year, you better sell $50,000 worth of puzzles or you'll have to make up the difference at the end of the year when the guaranty is due. Generally if a company wants a high guaranty, we've been somewhat successful in getting a lower royalty rate to make up for it - we'll say we can give you a guaranty and 7% royalty rate, or something similar, or you can have no guaranty and a 10% royalty rate. Sometimes they want the safety of the guaranteed money and sometimes they want the higher royalty if they think that we'll pass our guaranty in sales. It's always an interesting negotiation process.

Photography, though, can sometimes be different. We don't do much with photographs as puzzles, but for photography, especially if you're finding it on stock photo websites, you can oftentimes negotiate a one time fee for use of the photo rather than a percentage on a per-unit basis.

Eryx8973 karma

It would be really neat to see covers for all the vintage comic series. Would you say that that's where the appeal for your product comes in? In your originality, instead of just because you're making puzzles? I see that you have accomplished your goal of doing the subway map, haha.

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Yeah, I would say that's definitely true. As a fairly new puzzle company, we're a bit different than what is currently out there because we focus on individual covers rather than collages for the most part. It sometimes makes for a harder puzzle, but I like to think that it also makes for something a little cooler when it's done - something you might actually want to glue and frame and hang on the wall. But it's definitely true that the originality in our aesthetic is maybe more important than the product itself - the originality in the imagery is sort of paramount.

And yeah, the subway map :) That was actually our first license and it sort of paved the way for everything else. Getting one license makes finding other licenses a bit easier. It's actually a pretty fun puzzle if you live in or have been to NY because you start seeing all these places that you've never even heard of despite living here for years...

jstrydor3 karma

Just do ripoffs like Bertman and Ramen.

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

If there were a market for them, I probably would :)

We've been thinking of doing Mad Magazine puzzles because a lot of their covers have caricature imagery of comic book characters, but not sure they'd have as big a market...

thekingisbeast1 karma

What is the turn around time on a custom puzzle? I would love to get my parents wedding picture made into a puzzle.

NewYorkPuzzleCo0 karma

Well, because we don't own our own puzzle press, unfortunately we can only do custom puzzles if someone was ordering 250 units of the same image. Turnaround time for something like that is about 6 weeks.

For single images that you want to turn into a puzzle, there are some stores that specialize in that sort of thing. The problem is that I don't know the quality of them, but I can at least point you in the direction of a few companies that offer the service.

There's and, but I honestly know nothing about their quality or anything - I just know that they exist...

Nomad0031 karma

I have never bought a puzzle. I'm a nerdy scifi/fantasy/superhero/vintage-video-game loving 30-something. You have 1 link to change my mind about puzzles. Can you do it?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Hmm... not sure if it'll change your mind, but this is the puzzle of a competitor of mine. It's very cool though, so I'll share it here regardless.

If I had a second option, I'd choose this. It's an image that we're hoping to do as a puzzle this fall, but I'm concerned about who owns the rights that may be involved.

IAmA_Kitty_AMA1 karma

So I think puzzles are a really interesting product in that they're a "toy" with a more limited audience than other toys but also spans a very wide age gap. Just skimming through your retail site, your products span from children's book covers to new yorker covers. I assume you've done your market research, do you feel like there is more money at one end of the age spectrum than the other? And do you feel like as a company you have to try and hit the entire puzzle audience or will you focus more on one target group?

My fiance loves doing large puzzles (2000-5000) but has a very hard time finding adult puzzles because so much of the market is targeted for young children (tremendous amounts of 10-100 piece puzzles.)

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

For us, puzzles targeted towards adults (500 pieces or more) is about 70% of our business. You're totally right on the idea that we make more money on one end of the spectrum than the other. You're also right that we do feel like in order to be seen as a full service puzzle company that we have to try to hit both ends of the spectrum, which is why we developed kids lines in the first place. It also let us expand our distribution into more types of stores this way, but our bread and butter is definitely puzzles for adults.

For our type of imagery, focusing on adults makes a lot more sense since the nostalgia market is really what we're trying to hit.

One reason for the tremendous amounts of puzzles in the 10-100 piece range is that they're about 50% less expensive to make than puzzles for adults. Lets a lot of people enter the market without spending as much money.

IAmA_Kitty_AMA1 karma

Thanks for the reply! I find it amazing that a small children's puzzle is so much cheaper considering that while there's good savings on material, there's less scaling savings on packaging and distribution. Is it just a lot cheaper to license puppies and general kid images than adult puzzle images?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

The materials savings is just really that much. 60 piece puzzles usually are between 8" x 11" up to 13" x 19"

1000 piece puzzles are 20" x 27".

The amount of material going into the box is the same, true, and the printing cost is the same, but those only effect the price if you're doing really small quantities. Once you get to printing quantities of 5000 units or more, most printing houses will be able to get the cost per print down to almost $0.25 per print... If you're doing only 500 sheets of printing, the cost per sheet is almost $1.75 per print. That leaves the actual materials for the puzzles as the biggest factor in price difference.

Also, a lot of the kids puzzles aren't even licensed. They are images that are produced internally by the designers at the company and thus have no royalty fees assessed to them at all.

Maybe it's closer to 40% cheaper in terms of production once you factor in distribution and such, but generally, it's just a lot cheaper overall.

highpriestess4201 karma

I love puzzles and have been doing them for years (been lazy finishing a current 1000-piece taking up a living room table). Nice website selection, I only wish you had more art prints and vintage magazine puzzles! I can imagine the difficulty of gaining printing rights--do you struggle with this for popular images, or prefer to create puzzles from more unique and less exposed prints? I have a 2000-piece puzzle I've yet to begin because I don't really have a table or surface large enough for it. What would you recommend for assembling a 2000-piece puzzle?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

We do struggle for rights a bit - in more ways than you might think. Some companies like Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated and the like we'd love to make puzzles for, but the rights to the images are owned by more than once source (the magazine has rights, the photographer has rights, the celebrity has rights and the sports teams have logo rights). This makes it almost impossible to negotiate the rights for since there are so many people that would need a cut.

Even when we do have a license, sometimes some of the artwork isn't actually owned by the magazine. Oftentimes artists that are commissioned for works get to keep their rights to their artwork. The better licensors that we deal with have merchandise agreements with their artists ahead of time so that these issues don't come up, but for vintage illustrations, people really didn't think far enough ahead and the rights issues are a big mess.

So yes, it's a tough balance between trying to go after popular imagery, which will definitely sell better and is generally what we look for, and imagery where the rights are more cut and dry (or where the licensor doesn't want as much money).

Art prints are bit dicey. Some are definitely public domain images, but those images have typically been made into puzzles by so many different companies that the market is already saturated with the image. We tend to stay away from images like that where other companies are already doing them and try to instead find images that fit our aesthetic and aren't being done by other people.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

In terms of assembling a 2000 piece puzzle, there's a couple ways.

  1. Use red solo cups or similar and split the puzzle into colors. Put each color in a separate cup. Then put together these portions separately so you don't take up the entire table all at once.

  2. If there isn't an easy way to separate by color, you may be able to go through each piece and by looking at the box assign it to a quadrant of the puzzle. Then separate the quadrants and work on one at a time.

Those are the 2 ways I know of that people with limited space do puzzles when they don't want to eat up all their space.

highpriestess4201 karma

Awesome, thanks for your detailed replies! Re: the 2000-piece, what the hell should I do it on though? A giant piece of cardboard?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Oh! Hmmm... That's a tougher one.

I would suggest a puzzle caddy that you can open and put on the table and then close when not in use maybe?

Something like this.

twistedfork1 karma

My friend's mom used to do very large, intricate puzzles when I was a kid. She would use a roll up felt mat like this one to get it off the table.

NewYorkPuzzleCo3 karma

Yep. Those work too.

As a business idea, if anyone is interested, I always thought it would be fun for a bar or cafe to become a puzzle bar/cafe. They would offer puzzles for sale that you could buy and then they would give you one of these roll up mats to use.

You do the puzzle for as long as you drink your coffee/beer/wine at communal tables in the bar. When you're done for the night, you roll up the puzzle mat, hand it to the bartender. They give you a coat check number and then put your rolled up puzzle away like bowling shoes.

Then when you come back with your number, they retrieve the puzzle for you.

Instant repeat business. Works especially well in places where people don't have much room in their apartments.

fishdiscovrwaterlast1 karma

A friend of mine has an awesome old puzzle. It is all put together and on display. many of the pieces have actual shapes, there's a horse shaped one and other animal shapes. It also has a couple of 'holes' where no pieces go. Would you consider doing something like that?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Oh man... Maybe? The idea is fun and definitely different.

The biggest concern would be the cost of the die. I'd probably do something like this if I could presell it to a large account or to many different accounts so that I could be reasonably sure that I would at least make back the money I spent on the die in the first place.

It might be something for a kickstarter campaign - where I can at least guaranty a certain amount of sales prior to buying the die so that I'm not out $8,000 or so.

fishdiscovrwaterlast1 karma

ICK, I didn't realize a die costs that much. Maybe that's why I haven't been able to find that type anywhere. If I can, I'll take a photo for you.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

It depends on how many pieces you're making. A 1000 piece die can be pretty expensive due due to how many different cuts and such need to be made to make the tooling. A 20 piece die, on the other hand, much cheaper. Those you can probably get for $600-$800 I think.

Severisth11 karma

Hi there! Really love your puzzles, and the images that you use. How many puzzles do you make a year? And how many new puzzle images do you release each year?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Thanks, much appreciated!

We produce anywhere between 150,000 to 180,000 puzzles per year right now on average. Depends on how many kids puzzles vs how many higher piece count puzzles we're making. Ideally we'd like to underproduce if possible so that we're not stuck with inventory sitting at the warehouse at the end of the year.

In terms of new production, we release about 60-70 or so new puzzles a year in 2 stages. Once at the end of February/early March and once at the end of August/early September. We generally try to do 2 or 3 new licenses a year. If we're signing up a big license, though, we may do fewer so we can concentrate more of our resources on that specific license rather than spread them out.

This year we're looking to potentially expand into memory games for kids and playing cards, though we're still working on both of those concepts.

We actually put out a survey in June to poll people about what new licenses to pursue and which new puzzles to make, so if you want to give us feedback and help us choose images, definitely keep an eye out for that. We'll send out the link on our facebook page once it's ready.

McDeezyDawg1 karma

Dude please seperate yourselves from the rest and make these puzzle pieces partially magnetic so I don't end up losing the fucking things and have a permanently incomplete puzzles. Please tell me you guys have considered this, yeah?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

I've had a couple of people approach me about similar types of ideas. One guy wanted me to use something he created to do puzzles that worked with static electricity so you could do them on the wall. I wasn't convinced that would actually work because I think the puzzles had to made of foam for it happen.

I know some kids puzzles are magnetized on the back so that you can do them on the fridge as well.

I guess my concern is even if we made them magnetized I'm not sure people would use them that way? Would people seek out metal tables to do them on so that they would stick to them? I guess if so, it could work, but it seems like it would take a bit of a paradigm shift to get people to use it correctly. I'm going to check with some manufacturing people, though, to see if it's possible to line the backs with some sort of magnetic paper.

In any case, yeah, missing pieces are almost as annoying to me as they are to the people that end up puzzles that are missing a piece. We do, though, send out replacement puzzles if this happens, so we don't completely leave people in the lurch.

Oldmancoat1 karma

Where did you find the inspiration for starting a puzzle company? What did it take to get going, and how did you make your first sale?

I am looking at the puzzles on your website, where do you get the inspiration for the puzzles that you choose? Where you a puzzler before you started a puzzle company?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

I originally started because I wanted to get out of working at a law firm. It was slowly killing me - the hours of working for someone else. I'd always done photography and so I thought I could try to self-publish my photos as puzzles.

I did enjoy puzzles growing up, so that's mostly where the idea came from.

To get going, I called a friend of mine who at the time had a license with the New York Subway to make purses and handbags using old metrocards. We decided to take my photos of NYC and go to her contact at the New York Subway and do puzzles of the NYC Subway map and start making puzzles of the imagery - that's really why we called ourselves New York Puzzle Company - we were planning on doing NYC themed images as puzzles.

We started with 6 puzzles - none of which we had manufactured - and attended the Toy Fair in 2007. We really had no idea what we were doing. We made cheap samples from some website just to have something to show...but somehow we got into a few NYC stores pretty quickly - FAO Schwartz and Toys R Us Times Square for starters.

That's also where we found our current manufacturer. One tip for people starting out - if you get a booth a trade show, manufacturers of your product tend to seek you out to try to get your business. We had 6 different manufacturers stop by our booth at our first show.

In terms of how we grew, that took a lot longer. I stayed at my job for 5 years while trying to grow the company. We eventually approached The New Yorker to try to get a license with them to expand on our NYC theme. They said no the first time around, but eventually (either because every other puzzle company passed on the idea or because we agreed to pay them more money - or a combination of both) we eventually did get a license with them.

That was really our big break - and what caused us to pivot away from NYC imagery and towards vintage illustration. It became quickly apparent that the magazine illustration angle was much better received by the public.

So we expanded on that type of imagery - which wasn't too hard because we both really liked that type of art.

Eventually we got big enough that I could quit my job and do it full time.

tl;dr: We started out trying to sell my photos of puzzles. Eventually paid enough money to get a license with The New Yorker and pivoted the company towards doing puzzles of vintage illustration.

reddermoon1 karma

so f'in cool, i love puzzles but i don't think i've ever done any of yours. after looking at all the stuff you offer, what would you say your favorite "themes" are for your puzzles? and which puzzles would you say are your best-sellers? i'd love to know what other people have been buying so i can make a good first purchase.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Pets, pets and more pets. Seriously, our dog puzzles sell great.

Also, puzzles of busier scenes tend to sell well for us - Main Street, Beachgoing, Town Square Dance. Those have been doing well for us lately.

OddTheViking1 karma

Do you have any plans to create digital puzzles? I have a digital puzzle game from Microsoft that I use on my Surface that is pretty fun. The puzzles are all way too small and too easy though.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Right now we probably aren't going into the digital space. Mostly because of the amount of resources it would take to develop them and it's a whole different type of distribution than what we currently have in place. It would be pretty labor intensive and right now we're only 4 people. We're a pretty slow growth company - we try not to expand beyond our means of distribution - so trying to add digital puzzles is beyond what we can handle.

Also, several of the brands we license from actually have digital puzzle partners already, so we would have to find new licenses to use. If you're interested, the New Yorker's digital puzzle site is here:

Now, on the other hand, if someone started a line of touch screen coffee tables that became cheap enough that everyone started having them in their home, we'd definitely look at making some sort of digital product. This kind of thing could displace traditional puzzles enough that we'd be forced to develop something in order to compete. I have a feeling that this type of table will be coming to the market in the next few years. We'd probably look at something then if that happens.

Rockportsrawesome1 karma

How did you know when the time was right to leave your job? What was the tipping point that made you go all in on your puzzle business? What was the hardest part of starting the new business? What would you do differently if you were talking to your younger self?

Lastly, if you were not doing your own puzzles, whose puzzles would be doing?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

I was on a much needed vacation in the Galapagos actually. I know, poor me. I had finished my vacation and was supposed to go back to work, but I just couldn't go back. So I emailed my boss at the time and told him I was taking another week off and then went to Macchu Pichu... Really dumb at the time - I should have been fired. I still don't know why I wasn't other than that so many other people had been let go due to the economy that they probably didn't want to train anyone to replace me.

That was both the tipping point and the time that I knew it was right for me to leave my job. I had planned on saving up 2 full years worth of savings. Once I hit that number 3 months after I wasn't fired, I gave my 2 weeks notice.

In terms of what I would do differently - I would have tried to save even more. I'm not a huge personal finance guru or anything, but I do wish I could have lasted one more year to try to pay off the rest of my student loans. Also, I should have gotten a roommate rather than live by myself in NYC while working my original day job. Would have saved a lot of money.

But it all turned out ok, thankfully. Having the 2 years saved up was really key. I feel like a lot of people try to leave too quickly and don't have a budget in place for after they quit and definitely don't have enough saved up to live off of (or they underestimate the amount they spend - make sure your 2 years is really 2 years).

If I weren't doing my own puzzles, I'd be doing Pomegranate's puzzles. I think they do a fantastic job with their image selection.

bipolar_lesbian1 karma

What are the challenges that go into puzzle design that people don't really think about?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

I'm going to divide this into two parts because I think there is sort of two ways to interpret the question.

  1. Image Selection.

The biggest challenge here is to not only come up with fun puzzles, but to also come up with a whole line of puzzles that appeal to different people. Most puzzlers, from what I've found, prefer to have puzzles that are busy - ones that have people doing random things and have lots of different types of colors that make putting the puzzle together fun because you start noticing little things within certain sections that you don't necessarily see when looking at the picture as a whole.

On the other hand, there's a significant portion of the puzzling world that's looking for the most challenging puzzle they can do - or they have family members that want to distract them for long periods of time and are looking to buy these folks the hardest puzzle they can find (which happens much more frequently than you might think). Monochromatic puzzles or puzzles with repeating patterns are good for this latter type of puzzle. The key is to have a line of puzzles that appeals to both types of markets.

  1. Actual cut of the puzzle itself.

This is an interesting aspect that a lot of people don't think about. There are generally 2 different kinds of cuts to a puzzle. The first is called ribbon cut - this is where the metal die that cuts the puzzle looks like an undulating ribbon. It creates a puzzle that has two "innies" and two "outies" that are opposite each other on the puzzle piece. Think of the typical puzzle piece that you would see on a stock photo and that's the type of piece you get with this cut. This makes for a much more challenging puzzle because all the pieces are the same general shape, even though there are slight variations on each piece so that each piece still only has one true fit.

The second type of cut is called Random cut. This cut is like it sounds - the metal die that cuts the puzzle is totally randomized, so you can have pieces that have 4 "innies" or 4 "outies" or any variation in between. Most casual puzzles who are looking for a fun puzzle to do and aren't hardcore enthusiasts prefer this type of cut because it's easier to put together and generally a little more fun if you're looking for a general activity rather than something challenging.

kmoz1 karma

What kind of cut do you all use for your puzzles, and how do you feel about the more unique/amorphous cuts like what Springbok puts out?

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Almost all of our puzzles are of the Random cut variety. Some of our older styles that we may not have sold out of in the past couple of years may still be the Ribbon cut variety, but most of what we do is Random cut. From the few people that we've talked to that do puzzles regularly, Random cut seems to be much more enjoyable to people that do puzzles.

As for Springbok, I'm very familiar with the brand, but I haven't actually seen a Springbok die cut in many years so I'm not sure what they look like. I do know that some companies create their own dies where some shapes of the pieces in the puzzle correspond to the puzzle theme (like there are some pieces shaped like Christmas Trees in a Christmas themed puzzle). I think these are awesome, but they're so much more expensive to make. The die itself usually costs around $6,000 to $8,000 to make from what I priced out, so you have to be sure that you're going to sell a ton of puzzles to make back that cost - especially because you can only use that die for that one puzzle.

Still, it makes for a fun puzzle, so I can see why companies do it.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

As a follow up, my guess is that these puzzles are much easier to make overseas where the die cost may be much cheaper and the labor cost is cheaper as well. That may be how some companies are able to make these and still be price competitive, though that's just all speculation.

kmoz1 karma

Thanks for the reply! While springbok has a few "themed shape" puzzles, their pieces are typically like this. Not sure what you would call this cutting style though. Also, theyre made in the US.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Aha! Thanks for the image. Definitely helps.

These pieces are definitely Random cut, similar to the style we use, so definitely still capable of being made in the US and be price effective.

Ribbon cut is like this where each piece is the same general shape.

The shaped puzzles I was referring to are like these from liberty puzzles, who make awesome wooden puzzles.

kmoz1 karma

The unique thing ive noticed about springbok cuts is that theyre not aligned to a grid, so there much more difference than just "0-4 innies/outties." Was able to do a 300 piece one upside down when I was a kid once.

Big fan of them, but Ill definitely give your puzzles a try.

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma


I would say that The Newsstand and Just a Pinch are two of our 1000 piece puzzles that I know of that also don't follow a grid - at least in the ones that I've opened up on my own. And our 500 piece puzzles generally are non-grid like in their piece cut as well. Lobster Lovers is especially fun, but challenging.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

How do you make a puzzle?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

I'll start this response after having chosen the images that we're looking at because I think you're mostly interested in the process?

Basically, once we choose our image we send it off to a printer in Indiana. They print the subject of the puzzle (usually around 20" x 27") and the box for the puzzle all one one sheet of paper. We generally print around 5000 sheets of paper for each puzzle to start.

These sheets are then sent to our manufacturer. There they are glued to the sheets of chipbard and then cut to separate the subject from the box.

The subject, now glued to the chipboard, is then actually hand fed into a machine by a person in the facility - this is why puzzles sometimes don't line up with the full image on the box. There is about a 1/4 inch leeway depending on how far the person is able to get the subject sheet into the machine.

The machine then stamps the puzzle with a die. There are 2 people that make sure then that all the pieces are still in the puzzle and that nothing got stuck to the die when it cut the chipboard.

The cut puzzle is then actually pulled by a machine called a gripper out from underneath the die and then travels down a conveyor belt. This belt actually vibrates the puzzle slightly so that all the pieces get broken up.

At the end of the conveyor belt, the puzzle is then caught by a person who has a polybag attached to a funnel at the end of the belt. This person then takes the bagged puzzle and seals it.

The box, in the meanwhile, is glued to a thinner piece of chipboard and fed through a different machine. This machine folds and glues the box together making one Lid and one Base. A person then puts the bagged puzzle into the base, covers it with the lid, and then feeds it into the shrink-wrap machine, which wraps the puzzle.

That's the finished product right there. Then it get sent off to our warehouse and ready for sale.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Are the pieces shapes made randomly or is there a process, like there’s always a few pieces that are just really weirdly shaped

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

I think for the majority of puzzles it's definitely random. My guess would be that it's a computerized program these days where you put in the number of pieces you want and the style of cut that you want and it pops out with a design based on those figures. Then that design would get fed into a tooling machine to make the metal die. This is really pure conjecture though.

To be honest, I have no idea how random or computer generated it really is. Since we use our manufacturer's dies and don't make our own, we're not involved with the process other than to choose what general type of cut we want.

Now for those companies that use specific shapes within their puzzles, they probably have a fairly deliberate process to make their dies.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Would you say the demand for puzzles has gone up, down or stayed the same with the increase in our technology use

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Hard to say since we've only been around since 2007, but generally I would say it's stayed about the same from what I can tell of the industry.

In 2008 and 2009 there was actually quite the industry spike due to the bad economy. People wanted activities that were cheap and lasted a long time, so puzzles actually saw a rise - Newsweek put it at a 13% increase.

I think generally there will always be people that like puzzles and the tactile experience of it. There are a lot of parents, though, that don't want their kids on devices all day, too. Though we'll see what happens with this current generation of kids who grew up with smartphones and tablets. That may be more telling of how lasting puzzles will be in the long run.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Why the puzzle business

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

A few different reasons, really.

  1. I always liked puzzles as a kid and found it hard to find ones that had interesting imagery.

  2. It's still possible to make them in the US. For some products, finding a US manufacturer is tough these days.

  3. It's relatively low cost compared to other types of products. Makes it a bit easier to get started.

Those are the primary reasons. It didn't hurt that the license we started with - the Subway map - didn't have a puzzle licensee yet. They already had companies doing their other products, which would have made it a tough sell to get them to add us as a partner.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

How hard is it to start your own company, what’s the process like once you decide on an idea

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

The short answer is that the formation of the company isn't really all that hard, but there's a bunch of different steps, and it gets a lot more complicated when you grow. The long answer is that there's a bunch of factors to consider, of course, and you're probably better off consulting an attorney to go over all the different considerations, but to list some of them:

  1. Where do you want to form the company - it could be the state you live in or it could be a state like Delaware that offers easy formation and fewer taxes. Different states have different filing requirements - for instance, in New York, if you form a Limited Liability company, you actually have to publish your formation in 2 different newspapers for 6 weeks, or something like that, as a requirement of formation. Lots of states don't have this requirement, though.

  2. What kind of company do you want to form - it could be a Limited Liability Company, an S Corporation, a C Corporation, a sole proprietorship. There's a bunch of different ways to go with this and each has positives and negatives. This site gives a pretty decent run down of things to think about: Website

  3. Once you decide on the above 2 items, most of the times registering the forms for the company isn't all that complicated. In New York, you can do it here.

  4. If you form an LLC, you'll have to create an operating agreement. If you form a corporation, you'll have to create Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. These should be done with the help of an attorney. There are online forms that you can download if you want, and if it's just a single person rather than a group of people, that can work in the short term, but in the long run, you'll probably want to hire someone to draw up these agreements for you to make sure they are done correctly.

  5. Once you form the company, you then should trademark the name. You can either hire a company to do it for you or you can try to do it yourself online here.

  6. Depending on what kind of company you're looking to create, you have to A. Register for a Federal Tax ID Number for your company and B. Register for a Sales Tax certificate (if you're going to be selling a product to the public). The Sales Tax certificate is done at the state level - each state is different. The Federal Tax ID Number is done by filing an online form. You do that here.

  7. Once you start hiring people, the process becomes a lot more complicated. Then you have to set up a payroll system and collect W4s and jump through a lot of other hoops. The Small Business Association has a website that offers a run down and a lot of resources that you can read through for this and for starting a company generally. The link for that is here.

Anyway, those are a lot of the steps to go through/things to think about when forming a company (I'm sure there are more that I'm not thinking of right now as well), but I would definitely suggest consulting an attorney to help out and going to the local small business association if you have one to access their resources and personnel for help.

Pendleton_Werd1 karma

Hey man I used to love doing puzzles as a kid, do you think that because video games are so easily accessible now puzzles have lost their luster with younger generations?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Yes, definitely. Also with the younger generation using smart phones and tablets and that sort of thing so early a lot of them don't appreciate the tactile sense of traditional puzzles as well.

That said, I think there's still a pretty big market out there - especially with the Baby Boomer generation retiring and looking for activities to do.

And for us, specifically, it's not as big of an issue because we're much more focused on older classic brands rather than the latest nickelodeon show. Most of the kids puzzles we make are actually targeted towards parents and grandparents as nostalgia items, which is a bit of a different sell than trying to sell puzzles of new tv shows and brands just now hitting the market - those sales are much more heavily effected by the child picking the product off the shelf and wanting it right then and there.

cheesedoodleempire1 karma

Do you guys need a graphic designer? I need a job and I love puzzles... ;)

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Sadly we aren't in the market for a graphic designer at the moment. Now if you were a European distributor... Definitely in the market for those. :)

contrasupra1 karma

What size puzzle is your favorite to do? When you finish a big puzzle, will you ever do the same puzzle again, or do you consider it "completed"? What do you think of completed puzzles as wall art? (This is a controversial issue in my household. My boyfriend and I did a 3000 piece puzzle together about a year ago. It is still rolled up in a piece of felt in our closet because he thinks we should "do something with it." I enjoyed doing the puzzle, but I don't need a 4-foot picture of safari animals on my wall.)

NewYorkPuzzleCo2 karma

Ha! Yeah, a 4 foot safari picture would be a bit much. Though 3000 pieces is pretty impressive. Takes up so much space.

My favorite size puzzle is 500 pieces if I'm just doing it to kill time. The pieces are bigger and it gets finished faster, so it's nice to do if you're taking a weekend trip somewhere and you want to have some wine or beer while doing the puzzle.

1000 piece puzzles are more fun to keep on the table for an extended period of time where people can come by and do a couple of pieces here and there.

If I had to choose one or the other, I'd say 500 pieces. I like the immediate gratification...

As for when you've finished.... Your household is not the only one where this is a controversy. Many people think it's blasphemy to ever glue a puzzle.

Personally, we try to choose our puzzles with the intention that you want to glue it an frame it when it's done, so that's what I advocate. We think of our puzzles as $20 for both a fun activity and a piece of art for the house. So I say glue away! (Though maybe not for a 4 foot safari)...

contrasupra1 karma

Re: the puzzle - it was enormous. It was almost bigger than our dining room table, which would have been a problem, lol. While we were working on it (a few months, as I recall) we would just leave it out and put a big piece of foam board over it when we wanted to eat and to protect it from the cats. It was a cool experience (and downright amazing that we didn't lose any pieces), but I think I prefer smaller puzzles in the future.

I always think jigsaw puzzles would do really well in a lending library/swap type format. There are so many great puzzles now that I don't usually feel much desire to do a large puzzle again, but then they just sort of cost money and take up space in the cabinet. I would love to be able to mail off my finished puzzles to someone else and get new ones. Or maybe like a subscription rental service with a company, where I can finish a puzzle, send it back, and borrow a new one, like Netflix for puzzles. What do you think, would this idea have any traction in the puzzle industry?

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

Definitely. I know at least with some folks that I've met that puzzle clubs exist where people trade puzzles back and forth, but that's mostly a local thing.

You'd run into missing piece problems, for sure, but some people that are only looking to do the puzzle and not frame it wouldn't really care about that.

The biggest problem may be that puzzles are ridiculously expensive to ship for their cost. The bulk of the box and the lack of density of it is maddening... trying to limit our shipping costs is a big issue. If you did a subscription service, my guess would be that you'd be much more likely to make it work if you shipped the puzzle in a bag and then just included a printout of the image rather than trying to ship it in a box.

abcSpectacular1 karma

Any plans to ship outside of the US? I'm liking the style of your puzzles but unfortunately being in Canada means I can't get your puzzles (unless I'm missing something on your site).

NewYorkPuzzleCo1 karma

We do export to Canada in our wholesale market, so local stores that carry puzzles may have some of ours. We also sell to online retailers. is based in Canada and they sell at least some of our puzzles on their website - that's probably the easiest place to get them.

We'll probably be adding Canada to our retail site in the next few months now that we have a new customs broker, but that's still going to take some time to set up.