MasterPieces Diversifies Outside the Puzzle Sector
To be a strong licensing partner, MasterPieces studies each brand to determine how its products can best represent and stay true to the brand.
What is a masterpiece to you? Some may think of it as a classic piece or art, but it could be successfully building a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that you frame for display in your home. Or, it could be completing a Batmobile wood craft kit, or playing a dynamic game of CAT-branded dominoes with a child.
For 25 years, MasterPieces has been delivering puzzles — and, more recently, toys and crafts — to delight adults and children.
Founder and President David Rolls recalls that at one time the industry and retailers had thought of MasterPieces as only a puzzle company, but he saw an opportunity outside of puzzles. “We found success in crafts, games, toys and sports licensing, and now puzzles are less than 50 percent of our sales,” he says.
But it all started with puzzles. Rolls grew up with parents who liked to unwind from the stress of their family-owned business by building jigsaw puzzles. Rolls started his career as a professional baseball player for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers, and one time when he was home recovering from back surgery, his parents came back from an Alaskan cruise and mentioned the need for a puzzle of the beauty they witnessed.
From there he and his dad worked a business plan in the off-seasons for a post baseball career. Six years later, the day after he was released from the Rangers, he founded MasterPieces and was in the puzzle business.
“This has become a company that focuses on quality while being as competitive as possible to create more value for our customers and partners,” Rolls explains. “We really focus on customer success. Product performance gets you in the door, but establishing yourself as a reliable trusted partner keeps you there.”
MasterPieces has licenses to make products for MLB, NFL, NHL and NCAA, as well as brands such as Warner Brothers, Hershey’s, Caterpillar, and others. Rolls is excited about new partnerships this year with Coca-Cola and Clifford the Big Red Dog, which will have a movie released by Paramount Pictures in fall 2020.
Industry recognition has been ongoing for the company. In addition to receiving product awards from the Dr. Toy Program, the Mom’s Choice Award, The Parent’s Choice Fun Stuff and the Tillywig Toy & Media Awards, MasterPieces is being recognized by License Global magazine as one of the 2020 World’s Leading Licensees.
“Being recognized as one of the best-of-the-best licensees is important to us,” Rolls says. “It means we are meeting brand expectations. Long term relationships with our brands and artists are important to us and this award recognizes we have mutually beneficial partnerships.”
MasterPieces is an American-based wholesale company with more than 1,500 products sold at local stores, specialty craft shops, hospital gift shops, museums, zoos, online retailers and more.
To be a strong licensing partner, MasterPieces studies each brand to determine how its products can best represent and stay true to the brand. With Hershey’s, for example, MasterPieces created a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle in the shape of Hershey’s Kisses and another puzzle in the shape of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
The opportunities don’t stop there. Rolls notes Coca-Cola nostalgic heritage will offer a checkers game with Coke bottlecap shaped playing pieces and Shake It Up game in a Coke Can-looking shaker cup, and dominoes and playing cards in Coca-Cola tin cases. And, since Clifford the Big Red Dog began as a book series, Rolls says one of MasterPieces’ items for this brand is a storytelling game.
“We really try to stress a high-quality product line in everything we do,” he explains. “With our puzzles, the board is as thick as it can be in the industry. We treat each box as a unique item — we give each artist a biography, and there is either a puzzle reference poster or easel in each box.”
MasterPieces recently acquired Baby Fanatic, a manufacturer of officially licensed MLB, NFL, NHL and NCAA infant and toddler products. “Our brands have really embraced extending outside of the sports channel. We will soon see how this translates into placement and success at retail,” Rolls notes this is an example of MasterPieces growth and diversification outside of the puzzle sector. Additionally, Rolls says he is excited to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary while continuing to build a solid foundation to allow MasterPieces to last another 25 years.
“We will continue to adapt and stay laser focused on our customer’s success to ensure our longevity,” he says. “I am proud that our customers see us as a trusted vendor and with the award from License Global it feels like we are doing business the right way.”