by Tina Manzer
You may not recognize Jim Koplow here without his dice. When you see him at trade shows, he’s surrounded by them – in all shapes, sizes and colors. The founder of 45-year-old Koplow Games, “the nice dice company,” may have even handed you samples there; tiny dice in jewel-toned shades. You’d remember it. That’s the point.
“I enjoy seeing my customers and sharing ideas,” Jim told us. Since 1974, he and his dice have traveled to 650 trade shows, including two years with 22 shows each. He’s always been big on talking to people and showing them products. When he first started out, he walked around Boston’s Harvard Square on Saturdays wearing a sandwich board. On one side was an ad for a game he developed called Organized Crime. On the other side was the name of a local store, The Games People Play.
“My company was started by a vagabond who wasn’t interested in daily work, but who thought collecting royalties for a game may be okay,” Jim explains.
He and the owner of the store, the late, great Carol Monica, became fast friends. “Jim Koplow, the ‘dice man,’ walked into my store a week after I opened in 1974, touting his new game,” she said, in a 2005 interview with Knucklebones magazine. “We started talking, and then I told Jim about the special dice required for Dungeons & Dragons, and helped get him into the business.”
One year, Jim brought her a copy of the British game 1829 from Germany’s Essen Game Fair. She liked it so much that she decided to attend the annual event herself. In 1995, she came home with Settlers of Catan, in German, and became the first retailer in the U.S. to sell it.
In addition to his impact on the world of games, Jim has also brought innovation and fun to the classroom. Our industry has been selling Jim’s many styles of dice for years to creative teachers who make learning a game.
To find out more about this colorful character, we asked him to answer some thought-provoking questions.
Ed Dealer: You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with that elephant?
• Go for a ride
• Work on miniaturization
• Start selling compost
• Promote poems and records about “six blind men and an elephant”
What have you created that you’re most proud of?
Organized Crime, and some very unusual dice.
What games are you currently playing? Which ones are in your permanent collection?
Life, gin, casino games and Sudoku. I probably have 10 or more random games around, sent to me by? And 1,000 random dice collected over the years.
What do you do when you’re not working?
• A day at the beach
• Time in the garden
• Slow-paced travel
• A Mexican Boilermaker
• An easy hike
• Down time
Among your friends or family, what are you famous for?
Hanging out and showing up in time for dinner.
What personality traits do you value most (a), and (b) which ones do you most dislike?
a. Honesty, compassion and humor
b. Selfishness and cruelty
What were you like in high school?
I attended and was quiet. Had some good times and still have a few close friends from those days.
What challenging thing are you working on these days?
Getting up, transitioning to life online, and developing fresh new ideas for a 5,000-year-old product line.
What’s the best and worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Get a job, don’t go into business for yourself, don’t ever get a job, be healthy and happy. You can apply best and worst.
If life is a game, like some people say, what are some of the rules?
Don’t rush the end game, enjoy each turn, playing is always more important than winning.