This short article deals with the potentially rather dry topic of what, when, where & how. It's worth a read, though, because scattered across the data is the interesting tale of how a small British company, by inventing a fantastically useful product, expanded to take over the World — but then collapsed back again, taking no further interest in its original invention.
The tables which appear here are repeated, divided into one year at a time, in the fuller article "A Brief History of Letraset & Action Transfers", & to get the full effect it would be best to read these two articles in conjunction.
You can also find more detail in the associated article "Printing: the Presses". These three articles form a triptych.
Very briefly, the story goes like this: starting out in Waterloo Road, South London, with home-made single-colour silkscreen presses, Letraset acquired more printing technology in the pursuit of colour until the purchase of a rotary gravure press necessitated a move to Ashford in Kent. They retained their London premises for some time after the move. Continuing to expand, they purchased a factory in Italy which allowed them to escape the expense & limitations of gravure by printing transfers on a litho press. However, within five years it had all gone horribly wrong (apparently "computers & video games were to blame"). Read on for more detail…
N.B.: copyright dates very commonly refer to the year previous to publication, either because that was when the work was prepared or because licensed properties bear that date. Occasionally the year in the copyright will be even more than one year prior to publication. This makes copyright dates poor evidence of first publication; other evidence may suggest a year or two should be added to get the right date. However, a set will not have been published BEFORE the copyright date (unless it's a reprint, which is rare due to expense).
(K, GK, or L Serial Numbers)
(PR or LP Serial Numbers)
|Product with an Unknown Serial Number||Thomas Salter
(090 Serial Numbers)
Silkscreen, Spot Colours
Before Ashford Officially Opens
Everything up to K91 was printed in one colour on the Kippax Pneuminor silkscreen press.
K25 is the earliest known 'Instant Picture'; earlier serials were used for other projects such as 'Titles for Electronic Equipment' & 'Precision Lettering for All Scale Models'.
When the second batch (7-12) of Busy Bees were printed, the first batch (1-6) were reprinted at the same time with new, higher serial numbers.
Assuming that the 'other projects' continued up to around K85, it looks as if pretty well all the "K" serials are accounted for.
K91 is the monochrome sheet for the Batman Panorama; since the accompanying 4-spot sheet has no serial on it, we can't say if it shared the same number, used K92, or used an early "PR" serial (as the Tarzan Panorama no doubt did).
The Svecia Semimatic silkscreen press was purchased to allow four or more spot colours, the hope presumably being that this would also allow full colour — which in the event it couldn't really manage.
Very few jobs were printed on it, although Special Sheets & transfers for kits, etc., which we do not list here, very often required spot colours which would have made the Svecia the silkscreen press of choice.
Although the 4-spot (& therefore Svecia) versions of the monochrome Panorama sheets have the same serials as the originals, it is likely that they had their own job numbers; in which case, we may never find examples of K106, K107, K109, K113, K114, & K115 — one of which may have been the Tarzan Panorama.
The gravure press, allowing true full-colour printing for the first time, was installed in the Ashford Factory by Autumn of 1968.
The Parein "Cha-Cha-Rama Tintin" Free Gifts were probably the first gravure transfers, which "both required & paid for" the press (John Chudley). Ads for these were running in April 1968.
Logically, the gravure titles shown here with "K" serials ought to have had "GK" serials, but presumably Letraset didn't think of switching serial sequences straight away. It seems likely that one or two promotional items may have been given "PR" serials in the same period that these gravure retail items were given their "K"s.
|1963||K10 K17 K19: Electronics ©1963|
|1964||K25-K30:  Busy Bee Instant Picture Packs||K35: Electronic Symbol Drafting Set|
|1965||K44 K45: Busy Bees||K46-K50:  Panoramas (Mono)||K52: Lettering for Scale Models ©1965 Svecia||K53 K54 K66 K69 K70 K71: Busy Bees||K76 K77 K81 K82 K83 K84: Blick|
|1966||K86 K87 K88: Waddington's Instant Pictures ©1966||K91: Patterson Blick Batman Panorama ©1966 Svecia||K93-K98: Busy Bees 13-18|
|1967||K99-K105:  Waddington's Panoramas (Mk.II 4-spot) Svecia||Also:  Waddington's Panoramas (4-spot Revamps) Svecia||Batman Vita-Brits Free Gifts 3-spot Svecia||Patterson Blick Tarzan Panorama 4-spot Svecia||Yellow Submarine Special Sheets 5-spot Svecia|
|1968||K108 K110 K111 K112 K116 K117: PBIPBs 1-6* ©1967 Gravure||K118-K123: PBIPBs 7-12* ©1968 Gravure||PR16: Capital Tea Circus Act Gravure||PR21: Dr Dolittle Panorama 555mm ©1967 Gravure||Waddingtons Panoramas 555mm Gravure||Parein Cha-Cha-Rama Tintin. Ad: 16th April 1968 Gravure||Nabisco Shredded Wheat Tarzan Gravure||Somportex Combat Bubble Gum||Wall's/Bata Zoo Animals|
|1969||K124-K135:  Action Transfers (ATs) Red ©1968 Gravure|
*: 27th July 1968 — competition featuring 1st eight Patterson Blick Instant Picture Books. Therefore they must have been available by that date, whereas Nos.9-12 were not…
Whether or not the PR & GK serial numbers were synchronised is discussed elsewhere. It looks as if most of the time the PR serials were chosen to correspond approximately with whatever GK serial happened to be current; there were nowhere near as many PR as GK.
The few empty patches between known serial numbers might indicate a set of Letraset Consumer Products not usually searched for, such as Colorglo, Decorama, etc. Recent discoveries show just how easily these blank stretches can be filled in simply by looking a bit further afield.
|1969||GK1, GK4 ©1969; GK2, GK3 ©1968: PBIPBs||GK5-GK10:  Super Action Transfers (SATs) Red ©1969|
|PR29 PR30: ©1968 MakoCalco||Sunlight Soap Tintin||La Vache Qui Rit "A La Conquete de l'Espace". Ad: 24th July 1969||Victory V Jelly Babies. Ad: 20th September 1969||Topps Baseball Magic Rub-Offs (Decals)||YS-1 Craft Master Yellow Submarine|
|1970||GK11-GK22:  ATs Yellow — Sheets ©1969, Cards ©1970||GK23, GK25, GK27 ©1969; GK24, GK26 ©1970: PBIPBs||GK28-GK33:  SATs Yellow ©1969||GK34-GK45:  Mini-Toons ©1970||GK46 GK47 GK48: PBIPBs ©1970||GK49-GK60:  Mini-Toons ©1970|
|PR48: Brooke Bond||PR57: MakoCalco ©1969||PR61: Joe 90 ©1968||Ski-Doo for 1971 Mini Transfers ©1970||Buster Brown Rub-a-Doodles Time Machine||Smarties & Blue Riband||PR66: Kellogg's Sooty ©1970||PR68: Ceylon the Tea Island ©1969||PR71: Burmah Oil||PR75: Mako Calco ©1969|
|1971||GK61-GK72:  Groovy Doodles ©1971||GK73 GK74 GK75 GK76: PBIPBs||Mini-Toons 25-48 (GK81-GK104)||GK105: Soccer Action Replay ©1971|
|PR82: Veteran Cars ©1971. Announced 11th February||PR101: BEA Trident 2||Kellogg's Sugar Smacks Star Trek. Ad: 13th February 1971||A&BC Footballer Series 2 & 3 Football Season 1970-1971||Décotransfert. Ad: 23rd December 1971||Americana München Superrubbel||Americana München Photorubbel|
|1972||GK106-GK109:  Doodles ©1972||GK110: PBIPBs||GK111: Olympic Games (Ad: 1st July 1972)||GK112 GK113 GK114 GK115: PBIPBs ©1972||GK116: Action Profiles ©1972||GK117: Doodles||GK118: World in Action Transfers ©1972||GK120: Soccer Action Replay ©1972||GK121: Hockey Action Replay 1972|
|PR124: Mini-Toons||PR128: BEA ©1972||PR130: Michelino ©1971||Nutella Goofy Olympiade Rubbelbilder||Brown & Polson Rupert Iron-Ons. Ad: 10th June 1972||Republic of South Africa Stamps [Date on One Stamp: 1971]||Scotts Porage Oats||Samos 99 — Olympics||Dandy Gum — with Action Transfers||Americana München Superrubbel||Americana München Photorubbel|
|1973||GK122: Soccer Action Replay ©1973||GK123-GK128:  SATs Blue ©1972||GK130: Labels||GK131-GK134:  Look 3D Peep Shows ©1973||GK135: Doodles||GK136: World in Action Transfers||GK138: ATs Blue||GK141-GK143 GK145-GK148 GK153-GK160 GK163-GK165:  Super Doodles ©1973|
|PR146: Bobby Orr ©1972||PR154: Elastoplast 1973||PR159: Eco. de Normandie 1973||PR171: Ringos Crisps||PR172: Australian Life||PR175: PBIPBs ©1973||PR178: Elefantpojken 1973|
|1974||GK167: Mini Action Transfers 1974||GK169: SATs Orange ©1974||GK171: Doodles||GK173: Super Action Heroes ©1974|
|PR182: British Airways Trident 3 ©1974||PR183: Skippy Hop-E-Tition ©1973||PR186: Milky Bar||PR189: Kellogg's Doodles ©1974||PR190: Dandy Tattooze||PR191: RSPCA PBIPBs ©1974||PR193: Duckhams SATs||PR194: Bimbo Iberia||PR195: Topps/Scanlens Magic Rub-Offs ©1974||PR206: PBIPBs 1974||PR207: Proctor & Gamble||PR208: Skippy Australiana||PR209: Futbol En Accion ©1974||PR211: Camberwick Green ©1972|
|1975||GK174: Magic Rub-Downs ©1975||GK175: Tattooze||GK176: Magicrama ©1972 ©1974 ©1976*||GK177: SuperCalcoMagic||GK183: Super Doodles||GK185: ATs Orange ©1974||GK186: Doodles ©1974||GK187: Topps Speed Wheels||GK188: Wombles Doodles ©1974||GK203-GK209:  Wombles Super Doodles||GK212: Kung Fu||GK213 GK214: Super Doodles ©1975||GK215: Popstar Watchits ©1975||GK216: Birds of Britain|
|PR219: Milky Bar||Lessive Bonux (Dargaud)|
|1976||GK217: Super Action Heroes ©1975 ©1976||GK220-GK223:  Dennis Knight ©1976||GK230: Wildlife in Danger||GK232: Disney Panoramas||GK234: Super Friends ©1976||GK236: 1976 Remus Play-Kits ©1975 ©1976||GK238: Paddington ©1976|
|1977||GK240: Hanna-Barbera Rub-Ons ©1977||GK241: Super Heroes Rub-Ons ©1977||GK242: Remus Photorama||GK245: Super Action Heroes ©1977||GK247: Star Wars ©1977||ColorGlo|
|PR246: Popstar Nail Transfers||PR248: Kellogg's Cricket 1977||PR250: Cubs Safari 1976?||PR252: Chocolat Lanvin||PR257: Kellogg's||PR258: Ready Brek Rescuers ©1977||PR261: Shreddies Star Wars ©1977 Ad: 10th June 1978||Super Heroes Tattooze ©1977|
*: Two of the Magicramas, Astérix & Lucky Luke (GK176, above) exist with identical transfer sheets apart from the copyright date. The serial numbers are unchanged. The original production date would have been 1975, so the logical deduction is that Dargaud insisted on updating the copyright from 1974 to 1976 when the sets were re-ordered the next year — this small change would have incurred considerable expense.
It is practically certain that all the "L" serials up to L45 were Decor-Craft sheets (four to eight transfers per sheet, each transfer with its own 'Design Reference Number') printed at BKT in Tonbridge. Therefore, apart from two representative samples, these numbers don't appear on this table. All those produced before 1976 would have been litho printed at BKT; afterwards, of course, at Letraset's Linea Sodecor in Italy.
|1974||L6: Decor-Craft||L30: Decor-Craft|
|1977||L46 L48: Star Wars||L55: Paddington|
|1978||L61: Panoramas & Mini-Toons||LP63a: Jubilaeums|
|Wall's Sausages Star Wars Look-In 11 Mar 1978||Duplo Asterix Rubbel-Bild Gravure||Wimpy Star Wars||La Vache Qui Rit Goldorak||McDonald's McDonaldland||Americana München Fix und Foxi|
|1979||L64: DC Heroes ©1978||L68: Birds of Britain||L69: Marvel Heroes||L71: 3-D Double Doodles||L72: Sarah Kay, Star Base||L73: Nature Panorama||L74: Doodles & Thelwell||L77: Star Wars ©1977||L80: Action Heroes ©1978||L81: Thelwell/Double Doodles ©1978||L83: Battlestar Galactica ©1979|
|L86: Playscenes & Paddington||L90: Thelwell & Sarah Kay||L91: 3-D Double Doodles||L96: Panoramas, BSG||L97: Birds||L100: Spider-Man ©1978||L105: Dr Who Weekly||L107: Black Hole||L110: Mini Marvels||L111: Thelwell|
|LP62: Kellogg's Birds||LP63: Jubilaeums||LP75: Shreddies Battlestar Galactica ©1978||LP92: Ready Brek Star Force||LP95: McDonald's||LP102: Kellogg's||LP104: TV Comic||LP112: Findus Black Hole||PanriCo Junglorama Tarzan||Battle of the Planets||Albator offert par Braisor|
|1980||L116: White Squadron||L117: Colourpatch||L128: Sarah Kay||L140: Kevin Keegan Poster|
|LP123: Kraft Empire Strikes Back||L135: Kevin Keegan Action Replay||LP143: Shreddies Superman 2||Universal Task-Force||Texaco 1981 Calendar SP-1 to SP-14||Space Monsters (Packets)||British Airways — Space Shuttle|
|090/024 Spider-Man||090/032 Disney Panoramas||090/076 Mini Marvels||090/079 Thelwell Pony Tales||090/102 Colourpatch||090/108 White Squadron||090/122 090/125 090/126 Universal Task Force||090/134 Action Man Panorama||090/140 Kevin Keegan = L135 Competition closing date: 30/4/81|
|1981||LP147: TV Comic Popeye Tattooze||LP151: Smurfs, McDonalds||LP163: Shredded Wheat Super Kids||LP168: Dennis Lillee||LP201: Post Galactic|
|090/145 Keegan Poster = L140||090/159 Dukes of Hazzard||090/171 Little Miss||090/174 Worzel Gummidge ©1979|
|1982||LP206: Kellogg's Calendar||LP212: Shredded Wheat E.T.||Action Man Packets||Space Attack Packets||1000BC The Savage Age Packets||Doctor Who's Little Book of Villains in Suchard Tardis Easter Egg|
|090/186 The Fall Guy||090/192 E.T.|
|1983||LP219: Ready Brek||LP221: Anime||Barratt Super Heroes Activity Album. Competition closing date: 30th June 1984|
|090/201 090/202 090/203 090/204 090/205 090/206 090/207 Return of the Jedi||090/224 090/225 090/234 Masters of the Universe||090/237 090/254 090/300 090/301 090/302 A-Team||090/335 Knight Rider|
|1984||Transformers Weekly: No.1 20th September 1984||Transformers Weekly: No.2 4th October 1984||Transformers Weekly: No.3 18th October 1984 (Iron-On)||Spider-Man Comic: No.607, 27th October 1984|
|090/350 Thomas the Tank Engine|
|1985||LP225: Discover Butlins in '85||LP226 LP227 LP228 LP229 LP230 LP231: Rubbits||LP232 LP233: Spider-Man||Secret Wars No.1, 27th April 1985||Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R1 No.97, 27th April 1985||Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R2 No.98, 4th May 1985||Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R3 No.99, 11th May 1985||McDonald's Space Transfer Set||Rainbow Toys: Airwolf ©1984||Rainbow Toys: Street Hawk ©1984||Rainbow Toys: Dempsey & Makepeace ©1984|
Although John Hunt confirmed when asked that "L" stood for "Litho" & "P" for "Promotional", Letraset were not consistent with the use of their serial numbers, & you cannot expect that an item was promotional just because it has a particular serial number. For example:
TV Comic Action Transfers: LP104/2 in TV Comic, 19th Oct 1979
Dr Who Weekly Free Action Transfers: L105/1 in Doctor Who Weekly, 17th Oct 1979
Of two comics published in the same week, why would Letraset give one Free Gift an "L" serial & the other an "LP"? (Answers on a postcard, please!)
By the end of 1981, Letraset Consumer Products had given way to Thomas Salter Ltd., & soon after it would have been Acorn Printed Products doing the printing & licensing. Acorn continued to take on clients such as Rainbow Toys, but the "LP" serials habit was broken by the end of 1985 when Salters went bust. Salters gave way to Peter Pan Playthings, who then immediately collapsed in turn. This is why 1985 marks the furthest extent of our remit.
I am obliged to state that this document, the information contained within it, & its arrangement are all © Tom Vinelott 2007-2018.
© Tom Vinelott 2018