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“It was circular and made by Waddingtons in 1953 to celebrate the queen’s coronation. We would get it out every Christmas for the whole family to play with and it exactly fitted a little circular table – it was a tricky jigsaw with no straight bits.”

Examples from Opie’s 2000-strong jigsaw collection are the focus of 250 Years of Jigsaws, an exhibition at the museum in Notting Hill, London, which runs until the end of April.

The earliest in the show is an example from 1766 – when they were known as dissected puzzles and expensively handmade in wood by mapmakers as educational aids – and features a map of Britain. An 1851 Great Exhibition design and a morale-boosting Winston Churchill jigsaw, which was created in the Second World War despite rationing of cardboard, are among other highlights.

Also expect promotional advertising jigsaws including Turog bread for vim and vigour, and, for the music industry, Beatles and Rolling Stones jigsaws from the 1960s.

Opie, an inveterate haunter of fairs, markets and boots for over 50 years, says: “Jigsaws seem an appropriate pastime for these days – finding the right piece and fitting it altogether to reveal the true picture.”

Unless of course, you lose some of the pieces.


The jigsaw dealer

This three-ply paper-covered jigsaw from the Beatrix Potter book The Tailor of Gloucester, from which comes the quote, was created by Potter’s publisher Frederick Warne c.1930.

It continued in production until well after her death in 1943 but in cardboard rather than wood. It is priced at £35 from Donay Games.

IF you have a tendency to impatience then a 400-piece 1931 wooden jigsaw of His Majesty’s Yacht Britannia is not for you.

But Carol Goddard of Donay Games, a dealer in traditional games from the 1790s to the 1970s, is obviously a fan.

She says: “Doing the 400-plus piece was a bit of a challenge. Not just because of the number of pieces but the variety of extraordinary shapes.

Some just look like slightly large matchsticks which make up the sails.”

Goddard adds: “I also love the earlier dissected puzzles and the jigsaw series produced by the publisher Frederick Warne based on characters from the Beatrix Potter books from 1901 onwards [see picture above].

“Potter was probably the first author to fully exploit the branding possibilities of fiction, working enthusiastically with the publishers to promote her work, including handkerchiefs, teasets and wallpaper as well as pattern cut-out Peter Rabbit dolls and jigsaws.”

Carol and her late husband Donald Goddard traded as Donay Games in Camden Passage for 25 years, setting up the website to run alongside the shop.

When he died in 2003, she gave up the shop, redesigned the website and now trades online from home.

“From mah-jong to marbles and card-games to clockwork automata, collectors, film and TV prop buyers source items from the site as well as people who remember and want to play favourite card and board games and, of course, reassemble jigsaws from childhood,” she says.

The Britannia jigsaw is priced £110.