This page is part of our Puzzle Brand Comparison. You can find the overview page here.
REVIEW DATE: 2/30/2016 PUZZLE TESTED: “Vintage Love Letters” (2016)
OUR RATING: 69 points, AA Grade
CATEGORIES: fantasy, photographic landscapes, pets, painted landscapes, collage
CUT: grid cut, high variation FINISH: matte/linen, seamless
PIECE FIT: tight PIECE SIZE: normal
SUMMARY: Schmidt’s new Premium Quality puzzles take a serious approach to quality, and it shows. Their thick pieces, wide variety of grid-cut shapes, tight fit, matte finish, and seamless end result are all top of the market. On the downside, their boxes are just so-so and the puzzles have no add-ons in the box. Schmidt offers a wide variety of puzzles excelling in fantasy and photographic landscapes.
1. BOX — 8/10
How deluxe does the box looks and feel? Is it sturdy? Will it hold up over time? How nicely does it arrange on the shelf?
The new Schmidt boxes are attractive and sturdy. They are rectangular and on par in size with most German puzzles boxes, such as Ravensbuger.
The front of the box is simple and focused on the puzzle image. They have a new “Premium Quality” logo on the front. Note that some of the puzzles made in 2015 were also in the new Premium line, but didn’t have this logo. It appears they added it this year. It’s nice to have it there–certainly makes it clear! However, I am missing seeing the name of the image and the artist’s name on the front.
All four sides of the box have the Schmidt logo, a picture of the puzzle, the piece count, and final puzzle dimensions (in metric, would be nice to have imperial units too). The year the puzzle was manufactured is not on the box. The name of the puzzle, “Vintage Love Letters” in on one side in fine print. The name of the artist (Aimee Stewart) is also on one side in the fine print copyright info. Personally, I would have liked to see “Aimee Stewart” more prominent since I have a number of her puzzles and it’s a selling and collectibles point for me.
The back of the box has a “mini-catalog” on the right and an outline of what “Premium Quality” means on the left. I was very happy to see this, and I love that they have it on the box. I gave the box and extra point for this. The points they mention for quality include “Great variety of forms thanks to individually shaped pieces”, “Perfect cohesion thanks to specially-developed cardboard”, “Perfect accuracy of fit thanks to an especially fine punching knife”, “Special matte finish for jigsaw puzzles without reflections”, “Linen structure”, “Exclusive Design”.
Sounds like our brand comparison! I love that they have put a lot of effort into really fine-tuning quality and I can say–all of these points are true.
Final Score for the Box Exterior:
To summarize, the box didn’t knock me out. I would have liked to have seen the puzzle name, artist name, and year of manufacturer featured more on the box. However, I did like the quality list on the back, so I added a bonus point for that.
2. INSIDE THE BOX: 7/10
How deluxe are the internal goodies (such as posters or brochures)? When you remove the pieces is there puzzle dust, pieces stuck together, hanging chads, and places where the image has begun to separate from the backs?
The box came with the bag of puzzle pieces and nothing else.
In the puzzle bag, the pieces were completely separated, with no hanging chads or need to rip pieces apart. You can tell even from the bag of pieces that they are quite thick and heavy, feeling luxurious. There was small amount of puzzle dust in the bag, as you can see from the photo below.
Clearly the “Premium Quality” idea was not focused on the box interior, which is as basic as it gets. However, the bag of pieces looks very promising.
3. PIECE THICKNESS: 11/10
How thick are the pieces compared to other brands? How does a piece feel in your hand? How easily are pieces damaged or bent during assembly and separation?
We use Ravensburger as our ‘benchmark brand’ for good quality thickness in puzzles, and Schmidt Premium certainly has been looking at this competitor, because they managed to outperform in this category. As you can see in the close-up below, Schmidt’s Premium Quality is actually thicker than Ravensburger and maybe a bit denser too. There’s no sigh at all of fraying or fuzz. This is a very precise cut.
4. PIECE SIZE AND SHAPE: 9/10
Are the pieces standard shapes? Special shapes? How much variety do they have? Are they large or small?
Like all German puzzle brands, Schmidt has a grid cut. As you can see in the close-up below, there’s a large variety of shapes and lots of curved edges. Clearly a lot of effort has been put into making piece shapes unique. And as you assemble the puzzle, it’s always clear if a piece fits somewhere or not.
The piece size is about the same size as Ravensburger, as you can see below. (The corner pieces on this puzzle just happen to be a little smaller due to variety). The size is neither too small nor way oversized.
It lost one point just for being grid-cut, but really there’s not much to complain about here! This cut is definitely competitive with Ravensburger and Jumbo, if not better than those brands.
5. PIECE FIT: 12/10
Do pieces interlock well? Can it be confusing if a piece fits or not? Can you move groups of pieces together? Does it look snug when it’s done?
The effort Schmidt has put into quality really shows up in this category. It’s a nice tight fit, as you can see from the image below. You can’t really swing the puzzle around or anything :-). But it hangs together very well when moving groups of assembled pieces around and I was able to lift it without it falling apart.
That same strong interlock means it feels good when assembling, similar to the Ravensburger “Sure-lock” feeling, where there’s almost a ‘snap’ when a piece goes into place.
The end fit is pretty seamless. On the box they say this is due to an extremely thin cutting knife. It definitely works! Looking at the completed puzzle below, you can see the image rather than just the piece cut. And it lays very flat without pieces sticking up here and there.
Schmidt premium gets extra points in this category. It’s a very nice assembly experience and the final result would be ideal for framing.
6. IMAGE REPRODUCTION: 11/10
Are the colors bright and vivid? Is the image sharp or feel like a bad Xerox? How is the finish/texture on the pieces?.
The image reproduction is excellent. This particularly puzzle incorporated vintage images, which can be a bit fuzzy, but all the fonts and the teacup and other ‘modern’ elements were very sharp. The colors were excellent.
The puzzle has a very nice matte finish which is non-glare, yet isn’t washed out at all. It’s very pleasant to work with.
The puzzle has no negatives in image reproduction and it earns a bonus point for the nice, unique matte finish.
7. IMAGE VARIETY: 11/10
Does the brand have a wide variety of fun images and good artists?
Above: “Wanderlust” by Phil Koch 1000 pieces, “Dinosaur Comes to Life” 1000 pieces, “Paint Buckets” 1000 pieces. (click for a closer view)
Schmidt only launched the Premium Quality line last year, but they have quite a few puzzles in this category. You can see their full line on their website. As far as I can tell, this is not a separate line but is now their new standard line, as it looks like all the new puzzles are “Premium Quality”.
Schmidt has always offered a good variety of images. They’ve typically had some very nice fantasy puzzles. They excel at unique photographic landscapes. They also do collage puzzles and pet-themed puzzles. They carry some commonly licensed artists like Anne Geddes, Thomas Kinkade, and Colin Thompson. They release new images in winter and fall.
Specifically, I’m grading their current catalog per their website as of 2/20/2016. There are a number of puzzles I would immediately buy, more than 10 (one of our ranking criteria). However, most of their images appear to be licensed rather than commissioned, and they offer no “puzzle plus” lines, so this limited the bonus points earned.
WHERE TO FIND:
Schmidt has good distribution internationally. They show up on Amazon US and Amazon UK websites as well as other smaller puzzle sites. However, if you want them fresh off the press, puzzle-offensive.de is a good place to purchase them, and they have sales at times. Currently they are doing a 3-for-the-price-of-2 Schmidt sale. Their prices are good, so getting 3-for-2 is almost like getting free shipping. 🙂 Be sure to look for puzzles released in 2015-2016 if you want the new Premium Quality.
SUMMARY: 69 points
Schmidt’s new Premium Quality puzzles take a serious approach to quality, and it shows. Their thick pieces, wide variety of grid-cut shapes, tight fit, matte finish, and seamless end result are all top of the market. On the downside, their boxes are just so-so and the puzzles have no add-ons in the box. Schmidt offers a wide variety of puzzles excelling in fantasy and photographic landscapes.