September 27, 2009

My First Puzzle Auction

I had signed up for the mailing list over at, and was excited to hear that the next puzzle auction was under way, so I headed on over to their marketplace to see what was for sale. There were all sorts of great puzzles, but unfortunately they were a bit out of my price range: keep in mind I had gotten accustomed to spending $12 for a Hanayama, so everything above $30 seemed steep.

I did end up buying one thing: a dexterity maze from Tom Jolly named Quicksilver Maze. It had a bit of mercury inside, and you roll it from one end of the maze to the other. I won it for $5, which seemed like a pretty good deal. So what if it can kill me? It is liquid metal!

It arrived a few days later and I had a good time playing around with it for a bit. Not amazing of course, but what do you expect from a $5 dexterity maze? I still thought it was a good buy and now I have a vintage puzzle in my collection!

There were a bunch of great puzzles for auction, but what really caught my eye was the listing for a puzzle called Danlock by Dan Feldman from Israel. The description pretty much made it sound like the best puzzle lock ever, and I'm a sucker for something that comes highly recommended.  Here is an excerpt from Edward Hordern's review in Cubism For Fun (CFF) No. 45:

If I had to give away my entire collection of locks (there must be a hundred or two hundred of them) and keep only three, this recent acquisition would be one of them. ... To my way of thinking, the new lock is easily the best of the modern padlocks...
I really liked the sound of that, but unfortunately the $150 that the locks went for at auction was way more than I was willing to spend. However, on Dan's site it showed that there were a limited number available for sale. I was quite psyched to see this but as I'm sure you know, puzzlers frequently go a long while without updating their sites, so I didn't get my hopes up.

I contacted Dan and he did indeed have some Danlocks in stock for $80 including S&H. I was really excited to hear this since I was drooling over this puzzle the whole time the auction was running: I couldn't get my check in the mail fast enough!

There are two variations, Danlock A and Danlock B, and he told me that B was somewhat more difficult. I don't like the idea that there is a harder version out there, so I went with version B. From what I understand, there isn't really much point in having both because they are quite similar.

My lock arrived a week or so later, and I couldn't wait to give it a try! It had a great feel to it: it actually seems like a modified real lock, not like one of those cheaper trick locks from India. It came in a nice bag with Danlock written on the outside. (Note: this writing rubs off easily, so be careful! I kept it in this bag in my backpack and now all the writing has rubbed off). As you can see in the picture, one key is broken and the other is locked to the shackle!

I got the first of the three steps quite easily, it is pretty much the first thing I think anybody would try. However, now the difficulty becomes getting the lock back the way it started! This proves much more daunting than you would expect. Unfortunately, I had to catch a flight to Costa Rica for spring break that evening, so I had to stop solving and head to the airport.

I played around with it on the flight a bit, but didn't have much luck. I thought that you needed to listen to what was going on inside which was hard to do with the noise on the airplane, so I set it aside and got some rest.

I worked on it a bit more in Costa Rica the next morning and finally discovered the second step. I think it probably took me over an hour, but it was quite satisfying when I finally figured it out. Now I was stuck on the third step! Fortunately, I know better than to sit around indoors in Costa Rica, so I set it aside for a bit and went to see the sites. It was waiting for me when I got back, but this last step proved quite challenging!

I worked on it for 15 minutes here and there during my trip, and finally a few days later discovered the solution. What a journey! There is a reason people praise this puzzle so highly: it is truly great!

As far as difficulty, it is challenging but doable by most, I would think, if you are willing to spend some time with it. Overall, an extremely cool puzzle. This would be the jewel of my collection for quite some time! I loaned it out to a friend of mine who enjoyed this type of thing more than my other friends. He had a great time with it. I also loaned it to David, the owner of Eureka, who also said he (and his staff) liked it quite a bit.

Lets hope we see more great locks from Dan Feldman! I am sure there are plenty more great ideas where that came from.

After reading this, you might think: why not buy them for $80 and then auction them for $150? I had this thought, but had a feeling that this was probably frowned upon. Since I didn't want to go upsetting people, I checked with Eric Fuller who runs CubicDissection for his take on the issue. He agreed that such a thing was probably likely to irritate people, and I didn't have much interest in irritating people.

Tomorrow, I'll write about a puzzle I found that my girlfriend actually enjoyed as well!


  1. Dang. I think if figured out the first two steps and have an idea about the 3rd, but don't have a lock to try it on. I'm not going to spend $100 just to find out that I'm right/wrong. It looks like a great puzzle and I think one interesting fact is that you can't buy these for $9.99, nor can you make one from a lock bought at the hardware store. I think I know why.

  2. You may have the first step just by looking at it, but it is highly unlikely that you'll discover the second and third without actually playing with it! It is definitely worth it


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