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Birth of the Numismatic Jigsaw Puzzle

The birth of “Numismatic” (Coin) Jigsaw Puzzles 

In May 2008, a very good customer and friend of mine in Hondo, Texas, called after receiving his most recent order.  His orders often consisted of wild idea's and crazy designs in an attempt to find something I could not do with my saw.  During his call that day I jokingly said to him "You're never gonna stump me...someday I'm gonna make jigsaw puzzles from coins".  I'm always looking for a new challenge, and more detailed work, so soon I was trying to figure out how I could make jigsaw puzzles.  My customer's reaction to the first couple prototypes was priceless.

The process soon became the challenge, the jigsaw puzzle pattern was already solid in my mind.  I experimented with the smallest blades I had and you could easily see the lines.  I finally found blades half as thick as a hair.  I had never used blades that small and broke them often learning the required technique.  I was persistent however to meet the challenge.  The final technique was a combination of tricks I had learned over the previous 20 years, and cutting with a more delicate touch then I had ever needed before.  Cleaning each piece became another unexpected challenge.  I tried cleaning them with my rotary tool and lost a couple pieces shooting them across my shop and once through the drywall.  I finally figured out that one piece at a time with a cotton swab and denture brush is the only practical way.  My process to this day is still being fine-tuned but always will be by hand start to finish.  I have researched all machine types and even the most precision machine is no substitute for the personal touch and technique that is required with each coin.

I first introduced my idea to customers in Caro, Michigan, at the Annual Cars and Crafts show the first weekend in June 2008.  I cut a couple quarters and a Susan B Anthony dollar into 15 pieces.  I cleaned each piece and packaged them all together unassembled in small jewelry boxes with a picture on top just like any full-size puzzle you would find in a store.  I was very disappointed in the reaction I got that weekend.  Most shoppers refused to believe me when I explained that it was a coin and that it would look like a coin when reassembled.  I found it near impossible to generate any interest even with puzzle lovers like myself.  I even showed them to another coin cutter and was told they would never sell. When I returned home after that weekend I was going to drop the idea.  I decided to just put them together and give them away as gifts.  I put all the puzzles back together and secured them in cardboard coin flips.  I noticed the puzzles looked like coins once again and decided to market them one last time as "Coins made into Puzzles" rather than "Puzzles made from Coins".

The next weekend in Cheboygan, Michigan, I put them back out on the my table.  The reaction was much more rewarding then the previous weekend.  Customers were amazed and puzzle lovers baffled.  Many called me “Crazy”.  I sold out of the puzzles very quickly and took orders.  The rest of the puzzle story is as anyone would imagine seeing them now.  After several design changes and many little “tweaks”, my new jigsaw puzzles would become my "pet rock".  Much like my original return to coin cutting, a joke became an obsession and my obsession soon a passion.  By the end of 2008, jigsaw puzzles had become my most requested product.  

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects.  Coin collectors are called numismatists, and I had been called a Numismatic Artist on several occasions prior to creating these puzzles.  Seemed only fitting to name my creation "Numismatic Jigsaw Puzzles".  Then based on averages and comments the “countdown to my insanity” was also born and is posted in many spots on both my packaging and displays,  “Four blades smaller than a hair, three Tylenol, two long hours, and one CRAZY ARTIST.”

All jigsaw puzzles are hand cut one piece at a time, hand cleaned one piece at a time, and carefully reassembled with the help of tweezers into a plastic and foam "coin snap" case.  I use uncirculated, proof, and restored coins unless a special request requires me to do otherwise.  Start to finish creation time ranges from more than an hour to more than twelve hours on the puzzles I keep in inventory.  My current record is a 70-piece puzzle cut from a 1921 Silver Morgan Dollar that took over 35 hours.  I start at 12 pieces on dimes and go up to 55 pieces on old Silver Dollars but have done many different sizes.  Most US coins are available, non-US coins vary in availability and ability, many foreign coins are made of dense metals my half-hair blades can not cut.

"Numismatic Jigsaw Puzzles" also known as "Coin Jigsaw Puzzles" and "Jigsaw puzzles made from Coins" is an original idea of Jeremy Barrett and an original product of Coin Cut Art by "Grin-an".  Patent Rights and Copyrights reserved by Coin Cut Art and on file at the US Library of Congress. For more information, a list of retailers, or find out how you can become a retailer, contact me at grinan2@netzero.com or through my website at www.coincutart.com.

Jeremy “Grin-an” Barrett www.coincutart.com “I never knew my passion was art till art became my passion”