Printing: Dates & Serial Numbers


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).


Key to Tables:

YEAR Retail Product
(K, GK, or L Serial Numbers)
Promotional Item
(PR or LP Serial Numbers)
Product with an Unknown Serial NumberThomas Salter
(090 Serial Numbers)
& Acorn
Svecia
Silkscreen, Spot Colours
Gravure
Before Ashford Officially Opens

Waterloo Road: K Serial Numbers.
Kippax & Svecia Silkscreen; Ashford Rotary Gravure

Kippax Monochrome Silkscreen

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 (71-12) 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).

Svecia 4-spot Silkscreen

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.

Ashford Rotary Gravure

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: [6] Busy Bee Instant Picture PacksK35: Electronic Symbol Drafting Set
1965 K44 K45: Busy BeesK46-K50: [5] Panoramas (Mono)K52: Lettering for Scale Models ©1965 SveciaK54 K66 K69 K70: Busy BeesK76 K77 K81 K82 K83 K84: Blick
1966 K86 K87 K88: Waddington's Instant Pictures ©1966K91: Patterson Blick Batman Panorama ©1966 SveciaK93-K98: Busy Bees 13-18
1967 K99-K105: [7] Waddington's Panoramas (Mk.II 4-spot) SveciaAlso: [5] Waddington's Panoramas (4-spot Revamps) SveciaBatman Vita-Brits Free Gifts 3-spot SveciaPatterson Blick Tarzan Panorama 4-spot SveciaYellow Submarine Special Sheets 5-spot Svecia
1968 K108 K110 K111 K112 K116 K117: PBIPBs 1-6* ©1967 GravureK118-K123: PBIPBs 7-12* ©1968 GravurePR21: Dr Dolittle Panorama 555mm ©1967 GravureWaddingtons Panoramas 555mm GravureParein Cha-Cha-Rama Tintin. Ad: 16th April 1968 GravureNabisco Shredded Wheat Tarzan GravureSomportex Combat Bubble GumWall's/Bata Zoo Animals
1969 K124-K135: [12] 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…


Ashford Rotary Gravure: GK & PR Serial Numbers

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: PBIPBsGK5-GK10: [6] Super Action Transfers (SATs) Red ©1969
PR29 PR30: ©1968 MakoCalcoSunlight Soap TintinLa Vache Qui Rit "A La Conquete de l'Espace". Ad: 24th July 1969Victory V Jelly Babies. Ad: 20th September 1969
1970 GK11-GK22: [12] ATs Yellow — Sheets ©1969, Cards ©1970GK23, GK25, GK27 ©1969; GK24, GK26 ©1970: PBIPBsGK29-GK33: [4] SATs Yellow ©1969GK34-GK45: [12] Mini-Toons ©1970GK46 GK47 GK48: PBIPBs ©1970GK49-GK60: [12] Mini-Toons ©1970
PR48: Brooke BondPR57: MakoCalco ©1969PR61: Joe 90 ©1968Ski-Doo for 1971 Mini Transfers ©1970Buster Brown Rub-a-Doodles Time MachineSmarties & Blue Riband
1971 GK61-GK72: [12] Groovy Doodles ©1971GK73 GK74 GK75 GK76: PBIPBsMini-Toons 25-48 (GK81-GK104)GK105: Soccer Action Replay ©1971
PR66: Kellogg's Sooty ©1970PR68: Ceylon the Tea Island ©1969PR71: Burmah OilPR82: Veteran Cars ©1971. Announced 11th FebruaryPR101: BEA Trident 2Kellogg's Sugar Smacks Star Trek. Ad: 13th February 1971A&BC Footballer Series 2 & 3 Football Season 1970-1971Décotransfert. Ad: 23rd December 1971
1972 GK106-GK109: [4] Doodles ©1972GK110: PBIPBsGK111: Olympic Games (Ad: 1st July 1972)GK112 GK113 GK114 GK115: PBIPBs ©1972GK116: Action Profiles ©1972GK117: DoodlesGK118: World in Action Transfers ©1972GK120: Soccer Action Replay ©1972GK121: Hockey Action Replay 1972
PR124: Mini-ToonsPR128: BEA ©1972PR130: Michelino ©1971Nutella Goofy Olympiade RubbelbilderBrown & Polson Rupert Iron-Ons. Ad: 10th June 1972Republic of South Africa Stamps [Date on One Stamp: 1971]Scotts Porage OatsSamos 99 — OlympicsDandy Gum — with Action Transfers
1973 GK122: Soccer Action Replay ©1973GK123-GK128: [6] SATs Blue ©1972GK130: LabelsGK131-GK134: [4] Look 3D Peep Shows ©1973GK135: DoodlesGK136: World in Action TransfersGK138: ATs BlueGK141-GK143 GK145-GK148 GK153-GK160 GK163-GK165: [18] Super Doodles ©1973
PR146: Bobby Orr ©1972PR154: Elastoplast 1973PR171: Ringos CrispsPR172: Australian LifePR175: PBIPBs ©1973PR178: Elefantpojken 1973
1974 GK167: Mini Action Transfers 1974GK169: SATs Orange ©1974GK171: DoodlesGK173: Super Action Heroes ©1974
PR182: British Airways Trident 3 ©1974PR183: Skippy Hop-E-Tition ©1973PR186: Milky BarPR189: Kellogg's Doodles ©1974PR190: Dandy TattoozePR191: RSPCA PBIPBs ©1974PR193: Duckhams SATsPR194: Bimbo IberiaPR195: Topps/Scanlens Magic Rub-Offs ©1974PR206: PBIPBs 1974PR207: Proctor & GamblePR208: Skippy AustralianaPR209: Futbol En Accion ©1974PR211: Camberwick Green ©1972
1975 GK174: Magic Rub-Downs ©1975GK175: TattoozeGK176: Magicrama ©1972 ©1974 ©1976*GK177: SuperCalcoMagicGK183: Super DoodlesGK185: ATs Orange ©1974GK186: Doodles ©1974GK187: Topps Speed WheelsGK188: Wombles Doodles ©1974GK203-GK209: [7] Wombles Super DoodlesGK212: Kung FuGK213 GK214: Super Doodles ©1975GK215: Popstar Watchits ©1975GK216: Birds of Britain
PR219: Milky BarLessive Bonux (Dargaud)
1976 GK217: Super Action Heroes ©1975 ©1976GK220-GK223: [4] Dennis Knight ©1976GK230: Wildlife in DangerGK232: Disney PanoramasGK234: Super Friends ©1976GK236: 1976 Remus Play-Kits ©1975 ©1976GK238: Paddington ©1976
[n/a]
1977 GK240: Hanna-Barbera Rub-Ons ©1977GK241: Super Heroes Rub-Ons ©1977GK242: Remus PhotoramaGK245: Super Action Heroes ©1977GK247: Star Wars ©1977
PR246: Popstar Nail TransfersPR248: Kellogg's Cricket 1977PR250: Cubs Safari 1976?PR252: Chocolat LanvinPR257: Kellogg'sPR258: Ready Brek Rescuers ©1977PR261: Shreddies Star Wars ©1977 Ad: 10th June 1978Super 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.


BKT & Sodecor Linea (Italy): L, LP & 090 Serials; Acorn

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-CraftL30: Decor-Craft
1977 L46 L48: Star WarsL55: Paddington
1978 L61: Panoramas & Mini-ToonsLP63a: Jubilaeums
Wall's Sausages Star Wars Look-In 11 Mar 1978Duplo Asterix Rubbel-Bild GravureWimpy Star WarsLa Vache Qui Rit GoldorakMcDonald's McDonaldland
1979 L64: DC Heroes ©1978L68: Birds of BritainL69: Marvel HeroesL71: 3-D Double DoodlesL72: Sarah Kay, Star BaseL73: Nature PanoramaL74: Doodles & ThelwellL77: Star Wars ©1977L80: Action Heroes ©1978L81: Thelwell/Double Doodles ©1978L83: Battlestar Galactica ©1979
L86: Playscenes & PaddingtonL90: Thelwell & Sarah KayL91: 3-D Double DoodlesL96: Panoramas, BSGL97: BirdsL100: Spider-Man ©1978L105: Dr Who WeeklyL107: Black HoleL110: Mini MarvelsL111: Thelwell
LP62: Kellogg's BirdsLP63: JubilaeumsLP75: Shreddies Battlestar Galactica ©1978LP92: Ready Brek Star ForceLP95: McDonald'sLP102: Kellogg'sLP104: TV ComicLP112: Findus Black HolePanriCo Junglorama TarzanBattle of the PlanetsAlbator offert par Braisor
1980 L116: White SquadronL117: ColourpatchL128: Sarah KayL140: Kevin Keegan Poster
LP123: Kraft Empire Strikes BackL135: Kevin Keegan Action ReplayLP143: Shreddies Superman 2Universal Task-ForceTexaco 1981 Calendar SP-1 to SP-14Space Monsters (Packets)British Airways — Space Shuttle
090/024 Spider-Man090/032 Disney Panoramas090/076 Mini Marvels090/079 Thelwell Pony Tales090/102 Colourpatch090/108 White Squadron090/122 090/125 090/126 Universal Task Force090/134 Action Man Panorama090/140 Kevin Keegan = L135 Competition closing date: 30/4/81
1981 LP147: TV Comic Popeye TattoozeLP151: Smurfs, McDonaldsLP163: Shredded Wheat Super KidsLP168: Dennis LilleeLP201: Post Galactic
090/145 Keegan Poster = L140090/159 Dukes of Hazzard090/171 Little Miss090/174 Worzel Gummidge ©1979
1982 LP206: Kellogg's CalendarLP212: Shredded Wheat E.T.Action Man PacketsSpace Attack Packets1000BC The Savage Age PacketsDoctor Who's Little Book of Villains in Suchard Tardis Easter Egg
090/186 The Fall Guy090/192 E.T.
1983 LP219: Ready BrekLP221: AnimeBarratt 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 Jedi090/224 090/225 090/234 Masters of the Universe090/237 090/254 090/300 090/301 090/302 A-Team090/335 Knight Rider
1984 Transformers Weekly: No.1 20th September 1984Transformers Weekly: No.2 4th October 1984Transformers 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 '85LP226 LP227 LP228 LP229 LP230 LP231: RubbitsLP232 LP233: Spider-ManSecret Wars No.1, 27th April 1985Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R1 No.97, 27th April 1985Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R2 No.98, 4th May 1985Return of the Jedi Ewoks 207 R3 No.99, 11th May 1985McDonald's Space Transfer Set
Rainbow Toys: Airwolf ©1984Rainbow Toys: Street Hawk ©1984Rainbow 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.


• See also: "A Brief History of Letraset & Action Transfers" →

• See also: "Printing — the Presses" →


I am obliged to state that this document, the information contained within it, & its arrangement are all © Tom Vinelott 2007-2017.