Brand Profile: Gibsons Games (and puzzles)

Gibsons logoNormally Tuesdays are my repost day but I feel a bit guilty for neglecting my blog while I was on holiday last week, so here’s a new wee post about a company that we particularly like here at Fun Junction, and one that is a firm favourite with a number of our regular customers.

Blitz underground shelterGibsons games was founded in 1919 on the back of the sale of Henry Gibson’s ‘The International Card Co.’ (which had already become established as a nationwide supplier of postcards and and playing cards) to the ‘De La Rue company’ (the people that print a significant amount of the UK’s , and other countries’, banknotes). From 1919 Gibsons has endured: they made it  through the blitz despite losing all of their manufacturing equipment when their premises were destroyed, but almost more surprisingly they have managed to endure through the turbulent changes in both the way toys are made and in the way children play.

made in BritainTheir puzzles and a number of their games have remained British-made throughout, despite the allure of cheaper manufacturing overseas (Gibsons is also a distributor for the Austrian games manufacturer ‘Piatnik’ so some of their games, being Piatnik games, are made there). What’s more despite the countless options for multimedia play their puzzles and games are still staple components of both child and adult play. A personal favourite of mine is their game ‘pass the bomb‘; a language game with a difference, in which you pass a ticking bomb from player to player as each of you tries to think of a word which contains specific letters that you get from the cards provided. It sounds simple but the added element of your time running out (and the dread of hearing the ‘explosion’ going off to mark you as ‘out’) really ups the stress and you inevitably find yourself lost for words. This is a great game for teaching kids to spell and building their vocabulary but also a fun one for adults to play when you’ve got a few folk round. (They also make a junior version of this in which you reel off as many items associated with a picture card, e.g. the picture card is a garden, you could say ‘rake’, ‘flowers’, ‘lawn’ etc.)

Nursery PuzzleGibsons’ ‘my world‘ range of games and puzzles for pre-schoolers is well thought out, helping kids to get to know and understand their world with themes like ‘my school day’ and ‘my jobs’. The ‘my world’ range also has a feature that really impresses me in its simplicity and cleverness: each game and puzzle has a ‘letterbox’ lid to encourage kids to ‘post’ their game/puzzle away when they’re done. What a fun way to get kids accustomed to tidying up when they’re finished playing.

Gibsons are also responsible for the ‘Jig Map‘ range of puzzles, these puzzles are a great aid for anyone who wants to help their child get a grip on where they are in the world and to help them to recognise other countries not simply by their location but also by their cultural features; by showing pictures of standard iconic symbols of each culture in the images of the relevant countries. A great one for parents and teachers alike.

Their 500 and 1000 piece puzzles for adults (or more ambitious children) feature designs from carefully selected artists with a diverse range of styles: from the tranquil and intriguing plays of light seen in Thomas Kinkade’s work, to the chaotic and fun ‘I love…’ puzzles by Mike Jupp which have a feel reminiscent of ‘Carry on’ films and which feature loads of little comical scenes within them. Whether you crave leisurely escape or entertaining diversion from your puzzles Gibsons has you covered.

Overall Gibsons is a steady staple at Fun Junction, lots of our customers are regular collectors of their larger puzzles and many of their games have been a steady feature of our games section for as long as I can remember. I’d love to hear about your experiences of Gibsons so feel free to post a comment either here or Fun Junction’s facebook page, if you feel inclined you could even post a picture of your favourite Gibsons game or puzzle over there too (it’s great to have pictures on there of people enjoying the toys they buy in our shops). Once again thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Company profile: Hape toys


I’ve done this kind of product focused post before and it’s nice to be nice, especially where it’s due. There are lots of brands that we stock and I’ll tell you about their benefits in other posts but in this one I’m focussing on Hape toys. We’ve been stocking this brand for over a year now and the range often surprises us in terms of its innovativeness and in it’s attention to detail.

animal blocksOne of the key components of the company which allows it to stand out is its attention to both the environmental and social impact of its products: their eco range is more than a token gesture (as you see from some companies), it has been carefully thought out, not simply as a means of ticking the ‘eco’ box but also as a selection of toys that work well on their own merits. In particular the ‘animal blocks’ have been a very successful addition to the shop’s play table: they’re well made (they survived on our play table in store through the Christmas rush without a blemish so that says a lot about their durability), they’re well sized for little hands and come with fun animal print designs on the blocks which allow kids to build their favourite animals. The water based inks used to colour the blocks are vibrant but calmer in tone than those used in other sets of blocks, offering a distinctive colour palette which is both striking and fun.

bamboo hot rodHape also offer a range of bamboo toys, producing a range of toys with a unique look from a sustainable source of wood-like material. This range is mostly made up of transport based toys (though it does include such diverse categories as games and doll houses), the cylindrical shape of bamboo lends itself particularly well to making the streamlined shapes associated with a variety of vehicles. We really loved the range when we got it in, unfortunately it didn’t go down well on the shop floor and we’ve had to reduce the range which we sell now. However we’d happily restock if we received enough demand for them.

Hape's 'First Pounder' suitable from 12mnths £6.99, in store now

Hape’s ‘First Pounder’ suitable from 12mnths £6.99, in store now

I’ve highlighted their more obviously ecologically centred ranges of toys but I should point out that their whole wooden range is 100% FSC approved as being made from wood from well managed forests and, as I said earlier, they are also socially responsible: so far they have built 3 schools and are working on an ‘Early Childhood Education Center and Environmental Development facility’ in China.

With all this in mind you would normally expect such toys to have a fairly high price tag but Hape’s toys are generally quite competitive on price, so you get high quality toys that are distinctive, and that are ecologically and socially responsible, for a fairly normal price (e.g. their animal blocks are £11.99 and their ‘first pounder’ is £6.99). If you want to have a look at their range in more detail then head on over to the shop’s website, we’ve got a load of their products listed there (please note this link will show you both Hape products and other lines we get from a company called Marbel).

Well that’s my wee company profile for Hape toys, hope you enjoyed it. I should be doing more of these company/ product profiles as time goes on (unless of course people really don’t like them) so if you have any particular companies, or even a particular product, that has impressed you in some way let me know in the comments section below and I’ll see what I can put together.