Secondhand Hack: How to Check Puzzles for Missing Pieces

Jigsaw puzzles are so much fun for families, including grandparents and kids of all ages and stages! They are also the perfect activity to source secondhand, since one kick at the can is often enough for puzzle makers: "I already did that one!" 

Problem: when shopping secondhand or accepting hand-me-downs, it's impossible to tell at a glance if all the pieces are in still there. While you might think that a simple count of pieces should answer that question, we're here to tell you there are other issues you should know about.

For starters: sometimes the number of pieces advertised on the box is a rounded number. #micdrop  If you're like "Whaaaa?!" right now, you should know that we were too.

Our fave puzzle brand for quality is Ravensburger. We love the images, the cardstock quality, the matte finish, and the great details about the size of pieces and ages for best enjoyment. But...

While the Ravensburger "300 Piece" puzzles actually do contain 300 pieces, you should know that this isn't the case for their "200 Piece" or "100 Piece" jigsaw puzzles. In order to be completed, these puzzle sizes need 204, or 104 pieces, respectively. "Why?" you ask? Let us explain:

Even though the images on each puzzle are different, cardboard jigsaw puzzles are cut on a grid of rows and columns. It's math! A completed "100 Piece" Ravensburger puzzle has pieces in 8 rows x 13 columns. As you know, 8x13=104, not 100. Similarly, their "200 Piece" puzzles form a 17x12 piece grid, when complete. 17x12=204, and not "200 Pieces," as claimed on the box.

So, when you're standing there at a yard sale, counting pieces, keep these numbers in mind.


Wondering how many pieces a different brand of puzzle should really have? Want to check you own puzzles? Here's how we do it:

1. Build one side edge, and either the attached top or bottom edge of a puzzle. Once you have two complete and attached edges built, you do the math!

2. Next, count the total number of pieces in the puzzle box, for completeness.

3 As you count, transfer each piece from the bottom half of the box into the box lid. Give the lid a blow first, to remove any lint or hair. Puzzle boxes seem to attract both of these. Transferral while counting is your opportunity to notice any mismatched pieces in the mix, from other puzzles, or any damaged pieces. If you find an "extra" piece just set it aside without counting it. A badly damaged piece may indicate that you can stop counting and avoid this puzzle altogether. Do the next prospective puzzler a solid, and toss it in the recycling or trash (as appropriate in your municipality.)


When you buy secondhand puzzles from Tiny Toy Co., this work has been done for you! You're welcome. Sometimes our in-house puzzle testers even give it a dry run, to be doubly sure you won't be disappointed.  ;)

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